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Dance and Music Reviews : Gilad, Karasik With Santa Monica Symphony

In his seven years as its conductor, Yehuda Gilad has established the Santa Monica Symphony as a first-rate community orchestra, an ensemble worthy of the company of many of the Southland’s fully professional orchestras. Thus his decision to step down from the post must engender some regret.

In the Sunday evening concert at Santa Monica Civic Auditorium, Gilad’s fine sense of drama helped insure dynamic, propulsive music-making; his clear economical beat assured a tight, unified ensemble. Opening with a transparent, flowing account of Wagner’s “Siegfried Idyll,” the conductor evoked telling contrasts and maintained mostly consistent balances, the latter no easy task in the hangar-like auditorium.

In Sibelius’ First Symphony, however, those balances frequently went askew; at one point in the Finale, for instance, the strings virtually obliterated an important trumpet passage. The string choir tended to be bottom-heavy--not surprisingly, since first violin and cello sections were about equal in numbers.

Still, there was much to admire in this reading: the superb solos (clarinetist Emily Bernstein’s opening solo is just one example), the brass section’s heroic sound and Gilad’s attention to detail. One would have welcomed, however, a bit more flexibility of tempo, particularly in the Andante.

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Between the orchestra works, pianist Gita Karasik delivered an assured, elegant reading of Mozart’s Concerto in C, K. 467 (the D-minor concerto had originally been scheduled).

The Los Angeles native eschewed flashiness and instead opted for a thoughtful, controlled reading marked by refinement, nuance and subtlety. Gilad’s orchestra provided sensitive and rhythmically secure support.


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