“Lionel Bringuier is back, and the L.A. Phil welcomes one of its own” (LA Times)

“A key reason for the Los Angeles Philharmonic’s success is an emphasis, uncommon for orchestras, on family values, along with an unusual history of peaceful and caring transfer of power …

This week, it is the return of the orchestra’s prodigal son, Lionel Bringuier, who all but grew up with the L.A. Phil during the last decade, first as a 20-year-old assistant conductor to Salonen, then to Dudamel, and finally the post of resident conductor. In 2012, he became music director of the Tonhalle Orchestra Zurich, one of Switzerland’s most important ensembles.

His inaugural concert in Zürich saw a standing ovation led by Salonen (who wrote a major new piece for the occasion), Dudamel, Frank Gehry and top L.A. Phil administrators, something surely unprecedented in orchestra life.

A prestigious recording contract with Deutsche Grammophon resulted in magnificent, color-drenched live recordings of Ravel’s complete orchestral works, including the two piano concertos with Yuja Wang as spectacular soloist. Bringuier brought L.A. Phil ideas to his traditional orchestra in Zürich, including appointing a composer as creative chair …

At 30, Bringuier may no longer appear quite the same eagerly boyish young conductor who first so charmed L.A. But the charm is still there. So too the enthusiasm.

Bringuier’s Russian program Thursday night in Disney Hall felt especially a family affair, as it showed what all the fuss is about. It began with Mussorgsky’s showy “Night on Bald Mountain” and Prokofiev’s moody Second Violin Concerto, for which the soloist was yet another old L.A. Phil friend, Gil Shaham, who appears here at least once a year. After intermission came a theatrically vibrant and warmly played performance of “Petrushka,” one of the Stravinsky early ballet scores that are central to the L.A. Phil’s identity.

Color and dramatic character were notable aspects of Bringuier’s Mussorgsky and Stravinsky. “Night on Bald Mountain” came across less as the soundtrack for a spooky satanic midnight ritual than a roller-coaster ride happily taken by thrill seekers. Bringuier brought out phrases, clipped and sudden, as revelations of another new vista …

“Petrushka” on Thursday night felt like home. Bringuier did no forcing. He trusted the musicians, and the many instrumental solos, particularly the major role for the piano (another star turn for Joanne Pearce Martin), were illuminating. He emphasized the Stravinsky’s rich color palette. He happily stirred the rhythmic pot when it came time for exciting crowd scenes, sassy Russian dances and big-deal climaxes, all the while maintaining a fine line between the peasant pathos and urbane incredulity of a story in which a puppet comes to life, lucklessly seeks love and loses his wooden head.

The Prokofiev concerto was even more a family affair … There are balletic and pathetic aspects to this score as well (it is contemporary and in spirit of Prokofiev’s “Romeo and Juliet”), and dance was exquisitely seconded and evoked by Bringuier.”