There’s a lot to be said for symphony concerts controlled by a firm hand at the
podium. Once in a while, there’s something to be said as well for concerts in
which the audience takes command. Something like that happened at the
Hollywood Bowl on Tuesday night, and no harm was done. The program was all-Mozart, with Stephen Bishop-Kovacevich as conductor and
piano soloist. Since Mozart’s music demands a fairly small orchestra, without
the heavy brass and percussion usually in evidence at Bowl concerts, the
conductor decided to omit the customary “Star-Spangled Banner” at the start.
The audience began to stand when Bishop-Kovacevich made his entrance, only to
fall back as the orchestra struck up the “Marriage of Figaro” Overture
instead of the expected anthem. Considering the political situation, perhaps this wasn’t the night to omit the
anthem. Anyhow, no sooner had the conductor left the stage after the overture
than a bunch of singers over on the right side started up “The Star-Spangled
Banner” on their own. The sound spread; the crowd — 11,544 strong — came to
its feet and sang along. Some orchestral players joined in on their own. The
night was made safe for patriotism. It was made safe for Mozart as well. One of our most imaginative pianists,
Bishop-Kovacevich has also emerged as a splendid conductor in recent years.
The program’s concluding work, the great “Jupiter” Symphony, was capitally
set forth. The conductor’s broad, expressive tempos might be the despair of
the “authentic-performance” crowd, which likes its Mozart swift and crisp.
But this was another kind of authentic performance, authentically powerful
and, in the sublime slow movement, deeply moving. The solo piano concerto was a relatively early work, the A-major (K. 414).
Here, too, both pianist and conductor (who happened to be the same person)
worked for the expressive side of the young Mozart, and found it especially in
the sweet, serene slow movement. Two single movements for violin and
orchestra, sweetly and prettily played by Philharmonic member Michele Bovyer,
rounded out the evening’s pleasures.