Classical nights at the Hollywood Bowl, usually Tuesdays and Thursdays, may not be the most attended concerts during the summer season (that honor goes to pop stars or jazz greats), but they are often the most rewarding. August 4th was such a night, when the LA Philharmonic, conducted by maestro Leonard Slatkin, presented an All-Brahms program.
Besides being a first-class conductor, Slatkin is also a big supporter of music education, so it was a natural fit for him to be the one to present an evening of music by the famous composer whose output of orchestral scores was relatively small. Slatkin informed us of this fact at the beginning of the concert. Brahms was still a leading composer of the Romantic Period and is one of the "3 B's” – Bach, Beethoven, and Brahms.
Slatkin began the evening with a great appetizer, Hungarian Dance No. 1 in G Minor. Though Brahms didn’t compose this he did orchestrate it. So-called Hungarian dances were very popular during the Romantic Period, though in truth they weren’t Hungarian at all but rather gypsy music. Being gypsy music, it is rousing, sensual, joyous, and a fitting start to what proved to be a satisfying feast of music.
The main course was Brahms' Violin Concerto in D Major, Opus 77. Brahms' model for this was Beethoven; he used Beethoven’s long lyrical first movement and full sonata form. Brahms even composed in a Beethoven key, D Major. The piece itself is showy and demands great technique. In Russian virtuoso Vadim Repin, no stranger to the Bowl, it found a marvelous advocate. His playing is passionate yet steady, demonstrating a feeling of poetry and sensitivity while still showing impeccable technique.
The last course of the evening was the gorgeous Symphony No. 2 in D Major, Opus 73. Brahms composed only four symphonies, along with some string and piano compositions. (He composed no operas.) Slatkin lead the LA Philharmonic with verve and gusto while at the same time taking the orchestra through the softer sections. I particularly like the Second and Fourth Movements, the Second for its dark overtones, the Fourth for its exuberant coda. All in all it was a gloriously satisfying evening at the Bowl.