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Music and Dance Reviews : 2nd Annual Tchaikovsky Spectacular at Irvine

Even with problematic acoustical conditions, an inconsistent--if sometimes splendid-sounding--orchestra and a noisy and late-arriving audience who insisted on clapping between movements, much went well at the closing event in the first full summer season by the Pacific Symphony at Irvine Meadows.

In fact, in a musical way, the Saturday night event actually satisfied the jaded listener, despite these minor distractions.

Under its outgoing music director, Keith Clark, the instrumental ensemble brought clear conviction and admirable polish to the major works on its Tchaikovsky program, the Fifth Symphony and the Violin Concerto, and genuine, projected brio to the shorter items framing the agenda, the National Anthem and the “1812" Overture.

During the latter, of course, this being a second annual “Tchaikovsky Spectacular” at the outdoor Irvine showplace, there were fireworks. Not the kind of cough-inducing, haze- and fear-producing, real-battle look-alikes that happen at Hollywood Bowl more than once every summer--but respectable, ah-inspiring, visually varied and entertaining fireworks, nonetheless.

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A large audience, counted by the orchestra’s management at 9,184--the largest audience ever to hear the Pacific Symphony at a single event in its 10-year history, a spokesman said--cheered both fireworks and music making.

More often than not, the cheers were appropriate. Despite an acoustical quirk, which seems to rob the orchestra of a solid bass underpinning, the sound-dispersal system at the Meadows was working honestly and with minimum distortion at this concert.

And the ensemble itself played well--notwithstanding a few weak moments, as at the beginning of the slow movement of the Fifth. With characteristic vigor, Clark found and delivered both sense and excitement in the long and overfamiliar lines of the E-minor Symphony. Appropriately, the players responded with playing of tangible heat.

Sheryl Staples, a 19-year-old Californian of extravagant gifts and awesome achievement, was the commanding soloist in the Violin Concerto, all the technical and musical hurdles of which she easily o’erleapt.

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More than that, she shaped her well-considered performance with an exhilarating poise, as well as a tone of opulent sound and consistent sheen, particularly in a handsome and masterfully sculptured reading of the exposing Canzonetta. Watch her.


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