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Music Reviews : Polivnick Opens L.B. Symphony Season

Back on Square One would seem to be the position the Long Beach Symphony finds itself in for the 1988-89 season, which began for the orchestra Saturday night in Terrace Theater at the Long Beach Convention Center.

After what had sounded like eight productive years under the leadership of Murry Sidlin--a solid and provocative musical mind, an exigent technician and a wizard of programming--the orchestra was relieved of that leader last year by a committee from the board of directors. In this, its 54th season, the Long Beach Symphony hosts a short parade of guest conductors, each a candidate for the post of music director.

Paul Polivnick was the first on view, Saturday, bringing a program that looked more exciting on paper than it sounded in the hall.

Russell Peck’s “Peace Overture” (in its West Coast premiere) is symphonic hack-work, forgettable even as it unfolds, stylistically eclectic in the same sense the phone directory is eclectic--a mere list. Polivnick, the 41-year old music director of the Alabama Symphony, encouraged what seemed a fair hearing from the willing Long Beach forces, conducted from memory, and looked sincere.

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He accomplished not a lot more with Lalo’s “Symphonie Espagnole,” but at least left the efficient violin soloist, Mark Peskanov, and the apparently self-regulating orchestra, to their own devices.

Peskanov, the Soviet emigre who has showed his stuff around here before, fulfilled all the mechanical requirements in Lalo’s still-cherishable showpiece without at any point finding its charms, or the emotional heat we thought pervaded its length--this was a very neat, and very cool, performance. Where is Dylana Jenson, now that we need her?

As if to demonstrate that those Sidlin years clearly made the Long Beach ensemble musically bankable, the orchestra gave a virtually immaculate, beautifully balanced, musically tight reading of Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony, to close the evening.

Of course, the guest conductor deserves credit for letting it happen. Still, Polivnick seemed not to be the instigator of this splendid performance, just an interested bystander.

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