The Pacific Symphony gave its patrons a healthy dose of the music-making basics--an acceptable stylistic approach, correct balance and all the right notes--plus that intangible X-factor--artistic charisma, or call it what you will--on Wednesday night.
Guest conductor Vakhtang Jordania opened the program at the Orange County Performing Arts Center in Costa Mesa with a robust reading of Rossini's Overture to "La Gazza Ladra." The Segerstrom Hall acoustics revealed bracing tuttis and charming wind solos, but ragged ensemble mitigated against this being anything more than a warm-up.
Enter Viktoria Mullova, to essay Mozart's Violin Concerto in A, K. 219. She possesses a fluent technique, with telling command of articulation. The tone is sweet and the intonation impeccable.
Yet when it was over, one was left with the feeling that this was not Mozart--just the notes Mozart wrote. Everything was in its proper place, including the standard 19th-Century cadenzas, but the interpretation was soulless.
Using appropriately reduced forces, Jordania accompanied neatly. Only the famous Turkish section of the rondo added spice.
Given his background (defecting from the Soviet Union to the United States in 1983), it came as no surprise that Jordania has an affinity for Shostakovich, in this case the Symphony No. 5. However, it was not simply a matter of an artist feeling at home with a compatriot's work.
The polished ensemble playing, the bite and soar of the strings and the overall intensity of the group attested to the fact that Jordania had communicated his convictions to the players--and thus to the audience.
Conducting imperiously, he even managed the near-impossible: persuading the listeners that the finale is not cheap, special-effects bombast, but a logical resolution of the work.
Lacking only more finely honed brasses (though the horns on several occasions produced sonic thrills), the ensemble sounded like a new orchestra.
An arrangement for the full strings of Boccherini's Minuet from the Quintet, Opus 13, No. 5, proved a stylish encore.