PASADENA’S 100TH BIRTHDAY CONCERT
The best anniversary celebrations survey the future as well as the past. Such a celebration, Tuesday night at Ambassador Auditorium, marked the centennial of the City of Pasadena with a concert by Pasadena Chamber Orchestra.
In a generous and serious program, the 43-member ensemble, closing its 1985-86 season, offered three full-length symphonic works, one a world premiere, for the observance. Despite inconsistencies of tone and attack, a lamentable lack of instrumental polish and some obtrusive solo playing from within the orchestra, the performances honored the occasion.
Commissioned by the chamber orchestra for the centennial celebration, Donald Crockett’s “The Tenth Muse” is a four-movement song cycle for soprano and orchestra.
In lyrical outpourings and bucolic moods, and later in a quick but gentle scherzo, the new work meanders most attractively for three movements. Finally, it achieves dramatic tautness and genuine urgency. That is no condemnation of the fluid, water-treading, post-Barber style the young composer utilizes in these first 20 minutes, only a statement of preference for the mountain-climbing musical idiom to which he resorts in the final nine.
As sung most handsomely, but with minimal word coloration, by soprano Juliana Gondek, and conducted by Robert Duerr, music director of the ensemble, the performance seemed to reflect careful and loving preparation.
Similar virtues, with stronger projection, marked Nathaniel Rosen’s pointed and touching reading of Shostakovich’s First Cello Concerto, a reading well remembered from 1981, when Rosen offered it in the same hall with the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra. The bite remains, and the Pasadena ensemble met Rosen’s standard of concentration.
Beethoven’s Sixth Symphony, in fastish but unfrenzied tempos, closed the long program. Not all the woodwind soloists behaved with gentility, and some of Duerr’s attempts at restoring the contrasts in the piece resulted in a thinningout of instrumental textures. Still, the conductor steered a usually smooth course between pedestrianism and preciosity, and clarity reigned, most of the time.