By Ted AYALA
It may not seem like it at first hearing, but classical music and contemporary pop music share more in common than one might think. Specifically, roots in dance music. Just as jazz and rock music progressed from simple dance music to imposing sonic edifices meant to be enjoyed as music in and of itself, so classical music likewise evolved from facile minuets and gigues to ornate, complex symphonic structures far removed from their humble origins in the Renaissance and Baroque eras. The California Philharmonic highlighted the common roots of both kinds of music in their concert on Sunday at the Walt Disney Hall in Los Angeles.
A taste of both worlds informed the orchestra’s playing of excerpts from Sergei Prokofiev’s “Romeo and Juliet.” Derek Hough, who recently starred in “Dancing With the Stars,” and his dance partner brought an aggressive edge in their choreography of the “Montagues and Capulets” movement that owed more to the ballroom than the ballet. Their brief number was followed by three more excerpts from the ballet that had a weightiness more appropriate to the concert hall than the dance stage. Strings and woodwinds sounded crisp and effervescent in the “Juliet as a Young Girl” movement, while the entire orchestra was eloquent in the gravitas of “Romeo at Juliet’s Grave.”
They also managed to bring a honeyed charm to their playing of Johann Strauss, Jr.’s “Emperor Waltz,” which twirled with an authentic, alt Wiernerisch lilt.
Keen virtuosity and energy were heard in their heavy-hitting takes on Manuel de Falla’s “Ritual Fire Dance” from El Sombrero De Tres Picos and Richard Strauss’ “Dance of the Seven Veils” from Salomé.
Equally convincing was their medley of ABBA and Michael Jackson melodies, retaining their dance club edge while glazing it with a patina of symphonic polish.
Most scintillating of all was the encore that closed the concert’s first half – a roaring rendition of Glenn Miller’s “In the Mood.” Hough again stepped out on the stage, putting his frenetic footwork through its paces. The orchestra, too, was no less sizzling, crackling with a fire that would’ve been the envy of many a 1940s big band.