MUSIC REVIEWS : YOUTH ORCHESTRA IN BENEFIT CONCERT
A pessimist might have gazed in dismay around Royce Hall, UCLA, Sunday night to see the auditorium half-empty for a “special” benefit concert by (and for) the American Youth Symphony.
Audiences that normally flock to hear Mehli Mehta and his young players for free evidently abandoned the orchestra when a call for support was issued. Distressing.
An optimist, on the other hand, would have seen Royce as half-full on Sunday.
This positive thinker would have also relished the enthusiastic playing, brilliant sound, accessible repertory and the bonus of a bona fide celebrity--Burt Lancaster.
The actor recited Ogden Nash’s whimsical little verses that introduce each segment of Saint-Saens’ “Carnival of the Animals.” Lancaster accomplished his minimal duties with appropriate wit and cool professionalism (despite an inadvertent flip-flop of movements). Mehta drew crystalline playing from his charges (Paul Diebold was the expressive cellist in “The Swan”), while Jean Barr and Armen Guzelimian offered shimmering pianistic support.
Much of the agenda stressed individual players: “Carnival,” of course, as well as Rimsky-Korsakov’s “Capriccio Espagnol” and Ravel’s second “Daphnis et Chloe” Suite. All were dispatched with faultless technique and exemplary musicianship. Uplifting.
However, our resident pessimist might have winced at Mehta’s lack of sensitivity to the subtle colors of the Ravel and to his Louder-is-Better approach that stomped out any sense of dynamics in the “Capriccio” and Shostakovich’s “Festival” Overture.