The Orange County Performing Arts Center certainly shows off orchestras well, and this season it has had some of the very best to flatter. If the Warsaw Philharmonic is not quite of that caliber, it comes close indeed, particularly in certain repertory.
Such as Witold Lutoslawski's "Livre pour orchestre" (1968), with which director Kazimierz Kord began the concert Saturday afternoon. It may seem a matter of nationalistic stereotyping to expect a Polish orchestra to play Polish music with a special flair, but Kord and his group fully satisfied any such anticipations with a gleaming roller coaster of a performance.
Lutoslawski's "Livre" is the sort of exciting, innovative work that gives modern music a good name with both aficionados and the general music public. It is concerned more with sound than math or pseudo-Zen experiences, running a tightly planned course that is both viscerally stimulating and intellectually satisfying.
Kord exaggerated the inherent energy with a headlong assault at precipitous speed. He played respectfully with the glissandos and sustained clusters, but without lingering, and drove the finale with incisive vigor.
Precision and zest characterized his orchestra's response. The ensemble gave Kord everything he asked for, with such elan that the special timbral effects and unmetered passages never suggested self-conscious gimmicks.
After intermission, Kord and Co. applied an equal measure of clipped speed to Rachmaninoff's Symphony No. 2, with less convincing results. The adagio was undeniably indulgent, with a curious kind of purposeless passion, but elsewhere haste was the order of the day.
The Warsaw Philharmonic played with real cohesion, but lacked a sufficiently lush sound for the big climaxes. And Kord never asked it for a true ensemble pianissimo .
This was the Poles' second performance at Segerstrom Hall, and third in the area. The solo vehicle Saturday was Liszt's A-major Concerto with pianist Misha Dichter, as it had been Monday at the Music Center.
Dichter honorably met the prevailing standard of technically assured speed. Kord proved an accommodating accompanist, with an alert performance from his orchestra.
From the quick pace of the program, one might imagine that the performers had a plane to catch. Encouraged by vociferous applause, however, they were willing to stay long enough for two encores--a Hungarian dance by Brahms and Bach's "Air on the G string."