A masterful reading of Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto by one of the winners of the 1978 Tchaikovsky Competition highlighted Saturday’s Pasadena Symphony program at Pasadena Civic Auditorium.
Exhibiting sure-fire accuracy and superb bow control, and producing a tone both warm and penetrating, violinist Elmar Oliveira gave an account that was remarkably articulate and full of panache. Attacking each phrase with confidence, he brought unusual tension and excitement to the work. Save for a couple of ragged entrances, the orchestra under Jorge Mester provided strong support.
The occasion marking the day after St. Patrick’s Day, the world premiere of William Thomas McKinley’s Symphony No. 5 (“Irish”) opened the program. The composer apparently has attempted to maintain unrelenting emotional intensity throughout each of the three movements; there is little relief from the heavily scored, agonized instrumental writing that dominates the work. Sometimes resorting to quasi-minimalist means, McKinley uses up a little more than 20 minutes to paint a gloomy, barren and downright ugly portrait of Ireland.
The complete music for Manuel de Falla’s ballet, “El Sombrero de Tres Picos,” rounded out the program. Here the orchestra proved in fine fettle, and Mester elicited energetic, pointed playing from his troops. Mezzo Melody Rossi brought character, style and lyricism to the short vocal solos.