Question of the day: Is Richard Strauss’ ””Domestic Symphony” the ugliest orchestral piece ever written, or does it just sound that way? That gross and untidy bulk formed the second half of this past weekend’s Los Angeles Philharmonic concert (heard on Saturday night). Christof Perick, who conducted, seems caught up in a Straussian passion, since he also has conducted several of the operas, in San Francisco and at the Metropolitan, to great acclaim. He conducted the “Domestic” from memory, and so that work, too, must mean something to him. He conducted it, in fact, very well. No power on earth can unravel the horrendous orchestral chaos near the end, where Strauss gathers up all his tawdry, sentimental and bombastic tunes and sets them grinding against one another simultaneously in a ludicrous travesty of serious counterpoint. Perick, however, came close. He achieved a remarkable orchestral clarity throughout the work, and a commendable range of control over dynamics. Conductors do not automatically earn their passage to heaven by succesful performances of Strauss. If they did, however, Perick would be an early arrival. The first part of the program was both quieter and more substantial. It began with an old friend, Beethoven’s Third “Leonore” Overture, given a rather soiemn but nicely shaded performance with a hairraising buildup to the great dramatic rush at the end. Then came the evening’s soloist, Richard Goode, in one of Mozart’s lesser-known mature piano concertos, the F major (K. 459). Goode is, shall we say, even better that good. He is one of that group nurtured at Vermont’s Marlboro Festival, where the emphasis is on playing in a chamber-music, rather than a virtuosic, manner. That approach worked especially well in this blithe, whimsical work, where solo elements in the orchestra — woodwinds in particular — were allowed as much prominence as the pianist. Perick was of considerable help here, by reducing the supporting forces to chamber-orchestra size. There was a fine give-and-take among all elements in a superior performance. Three more Mozart concertos, in place of that Straussian phantasmagoria, would have made it a truly, not just partially, enchanted evening.

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