For visiting music lovers from other communities, the Orange County Performing Arts Center offers a lot more than just free program books. Still, those sizable and glossy, ad- and information-filled little booklets ought to be cherished; they used to be free at Los Angeles' music center, too.
Good sight lines, comfortable seating and apparently truthful delivery of sound are some of the other bonuses at the Costa Mesa facility. All these elements, plus the clear and undistracted attention of a large audience, combined Wednesday night to make the first appearance of the Warsaw Philharmonic at the Orange County Center a memorable event.
Most memorable was the performance of Witold Lutoslawski's Third Symphony, just 28 months after its West Coast premiere by the L.A. Philharmonic. This brilliant, articulate and ear-opening work, only 25 minutes in length in the engrossing reading achieved by conductor Kazimierz Kord and his orchestra, is daunting, but ultimately rewarding. It flaunts no pretty tunes or soothing harmonies or familiar effects.
Rather, it uses brass instruments as the vanguard in a quest for repose that moves through violent and angry emotions to a non-peaceful conclusion. The quest is abstract but dramatic, eventful, even touching. As played with passion, panache and virtuosity by the Polish orchestra, it spoke eloquently, but never raucously, to the well-dressed audience that filled Segerstrom Hall.
The first half of the concert offered eloquence in more familiar music by Tchaikovsky and Rachmaninoff.
"Francesca da Rimini," which the Warsaw Philharmonic had played Monday night in the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, seemed splashier from Row N of the Orange County facility than it had from Row H of the Pavilion--more lush of sound in the upper strings, more impassioned in its wind solos. Kord's vigorous conducting looked the same.
In the Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, Misha Dichter was again the musically solid, mechanically imperturbable piano soloist. In terms of timing, pacing and execution, Dichter has few peers; in the ways of producing a variety of sounds from his instrument, of achieving differentiations of tone-quality to express the kaleidoscopic emotions and colors in this piece, he falls short. As telling and articulate as his performance was, it still failed to tell it all.