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Hong Kong Arts Festival 2015

Review: Gustavo Dudamel and the LA Philharmonic

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 24 March, 2015, 6:07am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 24 March, 2015, 10:30am

Gustavo Dudamel and the LA Philharmonic

Cultural Centre Concert Hall

Reviewed: March 20

Conductor Gustavo Dudamel has a way of setting up a groove that creates an irresistible momentum. Vivid rhythms, colourful orchestration and shaping the dramatic arc of the music are some of the things he and the Los Angeles Philharmonic do so well together, as they showed in performing John Adams' City Noir and Dvorak's Symphony No 9 From the New World.

Adams was one of the founding fathers of minimalism, but now it's just one shade on his multicoloured palette. A brilliant orchestrator, he has created a sound world of pulsing, glittering keyboards and drum set woven into the orchestra.

City Noir, inspired by film noir, evokes a hazy landscape of LA nights interspersed with gutsy, brash jazziness. The alert listener could catch flips of harmony and twists in rhythm that kept the music fresh.

Elaborate saxophone solos were played with sassy flair. The piece ended in a great ball of energy gathered from off-centre, chugging rhythms.

Dudamel's interpretation of Dvorak's piece sounded fresh even though it is one of the most beloved pieces in the repertoire. It had precision, a firm outline and captivating details: a touch of freedom in a string slide, a graceful swell, and bounce in the rhythm.

The iconic English horn solo in the Largo movement, hovering over delicate strings, was hauntingly beautiful.

Carolyn Hove blew into a grass cane mouthpiece attached to a tube with metal keys and made mournfully moving sounds. Julien Beaudiment's flute solo was earthy and terrific.

The swinging rhythm made a buoyant Scherzo movement. The themes in the last movement, Allegro con fuoco, were played with proper fire and nobility, leading to a full-throated ending. The audience demanded two encores.