Lucas Richman's three-year stint as conductor-in-training of the Young Musicians Foundation Orchestra ends this year. Sunday evening at Royce Hall, UCLA, he led his last concert in that capacity with an agenda of French music.
One wonders whether a conductor-in-training can choose his own repertory. If so, Richman has some unusual programming ideas, beginning--or rather ending, Sunday--with Ernest Chausson's rarely heard Symphony in B-flat.
Chausson was one of Franck's pupils, but his glowering Symphony begins with Wagnerian intimations of profundity and ends with outtakes from Dvorak's "New World" Symphony. It also proves irrepressibly repetitious over its derivative course, though offering some grandiose climaxes.
A student of Daniel Lewis at USC, Richman presents a tidy, restrained podium presence, but his charges needed little exhortation to play with explosive energy: The YMF Orchestra roared up to Chausson's climaxes with ample, slightly edgy, power.
Playing softly, however, was another matter. Orchestra and conductor generally settled for mezzo-forte muttering where true pianissimos were needed.
That created some balance problems, which were not immediately apparent in Chausson's viscid scoring. But in Ravel's "Le Tombeau de Couperin" and Bizet's Symphony in C, string accompaniments often covered woodwind solos.
Richman wanted his Bizet and Ravel quick and nimble and received decently fleet, cohesive, albeit not invariably accurate efforts. There was plenty of pizazz in both interpretation and performance--clarity and elegance may come in time.