Review: LA Phil, Dudamel, Viola Davis at Hollywood Bowl in music by Prokofiev, Bonds, Ellington

Posted on: July 19, 2021

Viola Davis narrates Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf as Gustavo Dudamel leads the Los Angeles Philharmonic at the Hollywood Bowl. Photo: Myung J. Chun/Los Angeles Times

“By all appearances the Hollywood Bowl is big-time back. The first official night of the Los Angeles Philharmonic summer season Thursday was, in nearly all respects, a typical first night of the L.A Phil Bowl season,” writes Mark Swed in Friday’s (7/16) Los Angeles Times. “Gustavo Dudamel conducted. A large crowd attended…. Viola Davis splendidly narrated ‘Peter and the Wolf.’ Stirring pieces by the neglected composer Margaret Bonds and the great Duke Ellington paid tribute to Martin Luther King Jr. … On some qualified level, the finest music of both the Soviet Union and the civil rights movement focused on the struggles of the oppressed.… The main King tributes were excerpts from Bonds’ ‘Montgomery Variations’ … The four ‘Montgomery’ variations Dudamel chose—’Decision,’ ‘March,’ ‘Dawn in Dixie’ and ‘Benediction’—each, in its own way, brought a different glow to the spiritual ‘I Want Jesus to Walk With Me.’ For Bonds, walking with MLK was walking with Jesus. Dudamel followed that with the ‘Martin Luther King’ movement from Ellington’s ‘Three Black Kings’ suite…. [In] ‘Peter and the Wolf’ [Viola Davis] was on mark with a clever subtle edge… For Dudamel, every instrument, not just the flute/bird, clarinet/cat, bassoon/grandfather became a living being.”