Live Music: Mozart and Beethoven at the Hollywood Bowl

By Don Heckman

The annual program of events at the Hollywood Bowl is filled with a far-ranging collection of musical delights. So far-ranging, in fact, that the performances – mostly on Tuesdays and Thursdays – of classical music programs sans fireworks, dancers or marching bands, are among the uncomplicated pleasures of the Summer.

Tuesday night’s Los Angeles Philharmonic program – Mozart and Beethoven – was a perfect example. It couldn’t have been any more basic: a pair of Mozart works (the overture to Cosi Fan Tutti and the Sinfonia Concertante for Viola and Violin); and Beethoven’s Contradances and Symphony No. 1.

Nicholas McGegan
Nicholas McGegan

The balance was equally well-planned. The Cosi Fan Tutti overture and the Contradances displayed the lyrical melodicism and buoyant rhythms of both Mozart and Beethoven. And, as always, conductor Nicholas McGegan led the L.A. Philharmonic with the easygoing expertise he brings to music of the Baroque and Classical eras.

But the two highlights of the program revealed each of the great composers at the heights of their considerable powers.

Mozart’s Sinfonia Concertante for Viola and Violin is a work clearly inspired by his youthful attraction to both instruments. An expert violinist, he also expressed affection for the viola, often playing it in string quartets. The Sinfonia reflects both his affection and his expertise.

Nathan Cole
Nathan Cole

For the nearly 9,000 listeners in attendance at the Bowl on Tuesday, the work came vividly to life through the articulate fingers and rich musicality of violinist Nathan Cole, the L.A. Phil’s First Associate Concertmaster and violist Carrie Dennis, the L.A. Phil’s Principal Viola. Superb orchestral players, each is also a brilliantly expressive soloist.

Carrie Dennis
Carrie Dennis

The program’s second major highlight, Beethoven’s Symphony No. 1, was a work that introduced Beethoven’s considerable composition talents to Vienna in 1800. Composed a few years after Haydn’s last Symphony, and more than a decade after Mozart’s Jupiter Symphony, its frequent departures from traditional symphonic forms announce the arrival of an important new addition to the pantheon of major composers.

Here, too, McGegan conducted with convincing effectiveness, finding the heart of Beethoven’s unique blend of wind instruments and strings. The results were extraordinary, an opportunity to hear Beethoven’s first symphonic effort, performed masterfully – the stellar climax to an evening of music to remember.

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