John Koshak, now in his 17th season as conductor of the Chapman Symphony, is still young enough to welcome new repertory challenges and experienced enough to meet those challenges. At Memorial Hall on Sunday afternoon, his orchestra, composed primarily of Chapman College students, admirably negotiated the complexities of Paul Hindemith's "Symphonic Metamorphosis."
A good deal of forward motion characterized this reading. A solid brass choir and an alert, sensitive percussion section helped energize the entire ensemble. Some balance problems emerged during the "Turandot" Scherzo; Koshak needs to keep secondary melodic lines in check, so as not to obscure the primary ones. And rough-ended string playing and some slight intonation discrepancies occasionally detracted from what was, on the whole, competent playing.
Such problems all but disappeared in the finale, however, where Koshak masterfully controlled balances, transitions and dramatic pacing.
Following intermission, pianist Grant Johannesen, who had been on campus this weekend for master classes, performed Beethoven's "Emperor" Concerto. Though refined, stylish and accurate, Johannesen's account seemed impersonal. His clean, reserved approach to the work was in some ways appealing, but rigid tempos and a modest dynamic spectrum made this performance undistinctive. In two encores--a Chopin mazurka and a Ravel fox trot--Johannesen allowed his personality to emerge more vividly.
Koshak's forces provided reliable support most of the time, except for some wayward intonation in the woodwinds and lost synchrony between soloist and orchestra.
The program opened with Brahms' "Academic Festival" Overture, which sported vigor and spirit, although one would like to have heard greater output from the strings.