The Southern California Symphony Association presented its new musical director, Alfred Wallenstein, to an audience which filled the Philharmonic Auditorium to the top row last night.
The orchestra, too, was new, young for the most part, and arranged so that the higher strings were together on one side and the violas and celli on the other. The concertmaster, David Frisina, and the first violist and assistant conductor, Zoltan Kurthy, faced each other with the responsibilities of section leadership. The whole orchestra was on the qui vive. The resulting tone and texture in performance was exciting, full of color and nuance and had a gratifying resilience.
Work Well Done
The program for this first pair, to be repeated this afternoon, is an exacting one. It would be an undertaking of the first magnitude for an old orchestra. This one has been assembled only this week, on Monday morning at 9, to be specific. In three days, with the precision timing that years of radio has given him, Wallenstein produced a playing entity capable, responsive and promising. The Southern California Symphony certainly has a future if not all of its members can be said to have a past.
FULL COVERAGE: Inside the L.A. Philharmonic
There was festive atmosphere to this first concert of the 25th season being celebrated by the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra. The players and the audience stood to receive Wallenstein as he mounted the podium and the orchestra played a “tusch.”
Sing With Orchestra
The good will and admiration expressed by this gesture was spontaneous and full of real feeling. It was a flowing mood in which to start. Everyone felt like singing and did sing with the orchestra, “The Star-Spangled Banner.”
Robert Russell Bennett of Los Angeles and New York arranged the Bach Chorale, “Sleepers Wake,” which was first on the concert list. The strings sang the tenor aria first and the tone was arresting. Harmonies and counterpoint were simple and the melodies flowed on in a beautiful continuity.
The modern Symphony No. 1 by Paul Creston, experimenter, organist and orchestrator of New York City, proved to have merit as a whole but more beauty in the serenity of the third movement than was heard in the clever Scherzo marked “With Humor.” The first movement, “With Majesty,” was not quite realized. It is not surprising for both the first and last movements are filled with subsidiary ideas that take rehearsal to work out and several listenings to accustom one’s ears to. The objective way in which the problem was attacked by the conductor was revealing.
There will never be any doubt that Wallenstein will be loyal to the score at hand. As one of the orchestra men remarked at rehearsal: “All he wants is every note, every shading and every dot in the music.” The performance of the Creston was brilliant, crisp, well timed. It is hoped that it will be programmed again later.
Wallenstein conducts the orchestra as he would play the cello. The cello section, by the way, is especially good this year, Lauri Kennedy leading. Being a cellist at heart, the new conductor brings out the deeper tones of the strings, wields his baton as if it were a cello bow quite often and his left hand vibrates with the same sensitivity and as close to his heart as it would did he have his chosen instrument resting there.
This was especially apparent in Brahms Fourth Symphony, which closed the program. It was taken with discretion and commendable fidelity. The Ravel “Daphnis and Chloe” Second Suite gave opportunity for a personal interpretation and it had a style and grace that spoke eloquently of the ballet for which it was written.
The musical director has made an auspicious beginning. He was greeted warmly and his first performance more than came up to expectations. The ovation he received at the end of each half from a large and enthusiastic audience of unusual distinction is a significant omen for the season to come.