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LATimes Unimpressed by Van Zweden


by Jerome Weeks 20 Apr 2010

Last weekend was the DSO conductor’s debut with the LA Philharmonic at Disney Hall. To introduce him, critic Richard S. Grinell recounted the DSO’s “love at first sight” experience with van Zweden, comparing it the LA’s own rapturous, quicky romance with Gustavo Dudamel. But at least, Grinell sniffs, the LA Phil was much more circumspect. […]

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Last weekend was the DSO conductor’s debut with the LA Philharmonic at Disney Hall. To introduce him, critic Richard S. Grinell recounted the DSO’s “love at first sight” experience with van Zweden, comparing it the LA’s own rapturous, quicky romance with Gustavo Dudamel.

But at least, Grinell sniffs, the LA Phil was much more circumspect. Dudamel had two performances in LA before everyone rushed to the altar to get hitched. Practically jilted the man, it would seem.

In any event, the evening’s menu was the Cyrano de Bergerac overture by Johan Wagenaar, the Brahms Fourth and Rach’s One (not the over-played Rach Two or Three piano concertos),  plus a couple of encores for pianist Simon Trpceski. Somebody must have liked what they heard.

But while Van Zweden was getting an energetic response from the Philharmonic all night, that didn’t translate into a memorable Brahms Fourth Symphony, which was mostly loud and unwavering in dynamics. There was a sense of pressing too relentlessly ahead, even though the tempos weren’t all that fast; it needed more tension and release, and a stronger rhythmic base.

In addition, Grinell didn’t like van Zweden’s  “muscular, jerking, kinetic gestures” and thinks the conductor comes across “menacing” in his photos.

No word on the shoes van Zweden wore, though. Or the fact that the man never seems to wear a tie. Rather amazing they even let him in the door at Disney Hall.

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  • Scott Cantrell

    I, of course, wasn’t at that performance. And I haven’t always agreed with Jaap’s tempos and dynamics. But, judging from what I’ve seen and heard on recordings, I’ll take Jaap any day over Dudamel. Dudamel has better hair, but his performances I’ve seen/heard–none live, admittedly–seem all about fussing over every little detail without any sense of overall form or trajectory. Jaap is a far more sophisticated musician.