Tovey and Chalifour at the Hollywood Bowl

Bramwell Tovey
Los Angeles Examiner

By Dashell Arkenstone

Hollywood Bowl: It was a very lively and humorous evening under the stars Tuesday night, as Guest Principal Conductor for the LA Phil at the Bowl Bramwell Tovey presented an exciting program with works from Brits: Elgar, Vaughan Williams and Britten, and Aussie Percy Grainger's The Warriors - a piece not heard at the Bowl for over 80 years.
The surprisingly enjoyable Pomp and Circumstance March No. 1 (Elgar 1901) established the event with a grand offering of a sense of accomplishment - a proud harbinger of English magnificence. Next, Concertmaster Martin Chalifour was featured front and center in the beautifully smooth Lark Ascending by Ralph Vaughan Williams, an amazing piece of music and extremely well played. Tovey then livened things up a bit with his new arrangements of La Capricieuse, Chanson de Nuit, and Mazurka by the country gentleman Sir Edward Elgar.

Bramwell Tovey can really work the podium - quite the quipster, this guy. With an opinion on every piece expressed to the crowd before its example, he's granted full attention for each; and our involvement makes for heightened enjoyment. A long and amusing explanation of Benjamin Britten's Four Sea Interludes from Peter Grimes (1945) preceded a rather raucous rendition, but lacking no emotion. Which brought us to the much anticipated closer. Rarely do you see as many musicians as there were at that point without half of them constituting a choir of some sort. Tovey expressed to the drummers in the audience that if they were not on stage, to give up.

 Percy Grainger described his hugely scaled, 19-minute undertaking The Warriors - Music to an Imaginary Ballet, as "Ghosts of male and female warrior types of all times and places... for an orgy of war-like dances, processions, and merry-makings broken, or accompanied, by amorous interludes." The piece required two conductors, three grand pianos and a percussion section running almost fifteen deep - and it was much like what Grainger described.

 Tovey urged the audience not to ask themselves: "What was he thinking?" of the composer when listening to the cacophony, and went on to describe the rehearsal halls in which all musicians are familiar, where seldom can one practice without hearing another nearby. An accurate comparison, as frequent instrumentation occurs throughout the piece that seems random or misplaced, and at times sounds as if the players are all performing completely unrelated music. It's a colossal piece of work, and a difficult one at that. Moments where the Phil went out of sync surely fell unnoticed on the crowd; besides, the nature of the piece forgives wandering musicians, and overwhelmed by the inescapable confusion, not many would know the difference.

Bramwell Tovey welcomes the Los Angeles Master Chorale on Thursday for the epic Requiem of Hector Berlioz.