BOWL

Hail, this land of no seasons, where you can go to indoor grand opera one night
and the Hollywood Bowl the next. These two cultural manifestations overlapped
by one day this year; the Bowl went out with a bang — actually, with several-
– this past weekend. A crowd of 17,942 (five short of capacity) was on hand on
Friday night to witness the grand finale. It was, actually, quite grand. Whatever you can say against the notion of
outdoor music in Cahuenga Pass, the one undisputed triumph is the massive
fireworks displays at the weekend programs. Once again, to the great tunes of
Handel’s “Royal Fireworks” Music, the whole place blazed into vivid action:
pinwheels, rockets, pots of flame, even an effigy of Handel himself rising
over it all. Friday’s weather added to the show; a heavy cloud layer trapped
the smoke close to the ground, imparting a soft mistiness to the color scheme:
modern technology as Manet might have painted it (as long as he didn’t have to
breathe). David Alan Miller was part of the farewell; by Bowl time next year he will no
longer be the Los Angeles Philharmonic’s associate conductor, to the Albany
Symphony Orchestra’s gain. His program was the usual weekend grabbag,
listener-friendly for the most part: nice, rambunctious performances of some
Dvorak tidbits, Ronald Leonard’s sturdy runthrough of the Saint-Saens Cello
Concerto No. 1 (with the solo cello badly overmiked) and all that Handel. The
latter was done in a modern recreation of what might have been the original
scoring, with 16 oboes, 9 horns, 9 trumpets, 13 bassoons or contrabassoons and
3 drums: sonorous as all get-out. Not all the banging came from fireworks and drums. The evening’s second soloist
was the Scots-born Evelyn Glennie, who banged with commendable agility on an
array of clatter-machines (xylophone, marimba, vibraphone and glockenspiel) in
an endearing medley that included more Saint-Saens (the “Introduction and
Rondo Capriccioso,” originally written for violin) Richard Rodgers’
“Slaughter on 10th Avenue,” and, if you’re ready, Rimsky-Korsakoff’s
“Flight of the Bumblebee.” Glennie, 28 and, with her major hair, an alluring spectacle, won hearts. One
might, even so, question the usefulness of capricious rondos and bumblebees
transmuted into workout-pieces for percussion. The result seemed a little like
butter sculpture or painting on velvet: feasible but why bother? The cheers of
the crowd, however, suggested a different attitude. The air traffic, busy enough during the first half, kept its distance once the
fireworks began. Perhaps that’s the answer to the overhead noise problem:
continuous fireworks at all concerts. Worse ideas have been proposed.