Sarah Gibson's 13-minute warp & weft, commissioned by the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra and premiered in 2019 with Peter Oundjian conducting, made a nice introduction to my first Hollywood Bowl concert in nearly two years. The crossed warning searchlights were out and aircraft mostly stayed away, as Gemma New and the Los Angeles Philharmonic got to know each better in Beethoven and Schumann.

Gibson's fantasy, inspired by the art of Miriam Schapiro (1923-2015), was intended by the composer as “a celebration of the creative process and specifically the Schapiro-coined term femmage – collages of feminist objects”. There were so many pleasing sounds to listen to that it was a shame that the large screens flanking the stage didn't display any of the artists' work. Gibson's beautifully orchestrated music, with hiccoughs out of Till Eulenspiegel and wonderful hints of Bartók's Concerto for Orchestra, had a richness that may have come from the five double-basses being slotted on the left behind the wedge of the cello section wedge; overall, there was less sheer visceral impact but the music had such delicacy at times that even with the noise of the freeway you could hear the quiet boing of a bass drum decay.

When I spoke to Gemma New a few years ago for an article on violinists who had become conductors, she told me that from an early age she had been “fascinated by the way orchestral music unifies and inspires everyone involved. Experiencing music together,” she said, “creates a strong human bond between us, no matter who we are, or where we come from.” And that was evident in the warmth of the applause throughout the evening.

“The process of learning a score is deeply satisfying,” New said to me, and the way she laid out the orchestral introduction in the first movement of Beethoven's First Piano Concerto was spacious and involved and couldn't have set things up better for Behzod Abduraimov who entered with a gentle lyrical lilt and made it quickly clear this was a pianist who fully enjoyed Beethovenian delights. He mimicked the mock heroics of the trumpets and drums, he had fun alternating staccato and legato articulation in repeating triplets, and before the big downward octave run he held the top as long as possible before crashing down. By this point, however, as lovely as the proceedings were, it was becoming obvious that neither the orchestra nor the soloist was going to take decisive charge. The music had flow and integrity but the lack of drama became obvious when the short introduction to the cadenza seemed too long. It was like a concertante symphony in which the pianist was part of the orchestral fabric. In the last movement, after the first of the brief cadenzas, New suddenly jump-started the orchestra into an entirely new, much faster tempo and raced with Abduraimov to the end.

New had also told me that “music is not just ink on a page, it’s an energy force that is constantly changing course, shape, and character. Discovering and rediscovering music with an orchestra, and having a creative conversation with the players is both energizing and inspiring.” And so her performance of Schumann's “Rhenish” Symphony came most alive in moments of seeking, otherwise it was broad and generally uneventful like the Rhine on a beautiful serene day.

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