Gustavo's Mendelssohn Live a Dud at Disney

Oct 11, 2011 | Updated Dec 11, 2011

Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra, Gustavo Dudamel (conductor), Janine Jansen (violin). Walt Disney Concert Hall, Los Angeles. 09.010.2011 (LV)

Mendelssohn: Overture "Hebrides"
Mendelssohn: Violin Concerto 
Mendelssohn: Symphony No 3 "Scottish"

Sunday afternoon's concert, which was shown live in more than 400 movie theaters in the U.S., may have been a blockbuster hit (the numbers will not be made available by NCM Fathom which aired the spectacular) but in Disney Hall the concert was a dud. Despite some ferocious fiddle playing from Janine Jansen, three of Mendelssohn's best pieces came over as pallid and long-winded. Dudamel showed off his usual toolkit including an ability to create luminosity within the strings and winds, and an ability to energize an orchestra, especially one that is still enjoying being off Esa-Pekka Salonen's leash and in the limelight. But for Mendelssohn that ain't enough, even though the sell-out crowd went crazy at the end.

Setting the tone for the afternoon, Mendelssohn's glorious Hebrides Overture was played as if it were seamless elevator music. All of the dialogues between the woodwind, strings and brass went unnoticed. The Philharmonic turned on its customary Technicolor lushness but there was no inner intensity, just notes.

In the Violin Concerto which followed Janine Jansen did everything a sexy young virtuoso could under such circumstances, but even she seemed unnerved by the occasion, suffering intonation problems at a few inopportune moments. For every thrilling run, trill and climax Jansen produced, there were long stretches of unconvincing note spinning from Dudamel and the band.

After halftime, the Scotch Symphony suffered the same faults plus an imbalance which at times turned the symphony into a kettle drum concerto. It was music making at its most ordinary. It was not what the Dude had promised.

Gustavo Dudamel on LA Phil LIVE 2011/12

Anyone, like me, who assumed that the hosting and other features that were available in the movie theater, or some equivalent, would be made available in Disney Hall, was disappointed, although what I managed to hear of an interview with Jansen indicated that we didn't miss much. All we got was the usual insipid introduction from CEO Deb Borda (who asked the audience to be "raucous" when they applauded), and the occasional mugging for the television cameras from an otherwise grim-looking Gustavo on the podium.