O.C. MUSIC REVIEW : Fireworks Cap Holiday Show at Meadows

Times Staff Writer

Appearing as a guest conductor, Pasadena Symphony music director Jorge Mester led the Pacific Symphony through a competent if not very exciting concert on July 4 to open the Pacific’s second Summer Series at Irvine Meadows Amphitheatre.

Naturally, there were fireworks.

The “All-American Celebration” actually was a Pan-American program, with the inclusion of Mexican composer Jose Pablo Moncayo Garcia’s “Huapango.” A crafty, colorful work, “Huapango” deconstructs and reassembles the rhythms and tunes of three popular Mexican folk dances. (Unfortunately, no one bothered to include program notes about this or any of the other works on the program.)

The orchestra played with vivid attention and modest sweep. But the strings were often swamped, thanks to some murky, quirky amplification.


In any case, “Huapango” appealed irresistibly to visceral interests. The suite from Walter Piston’s ballet “The Incredible Flutist” made more intellectual demands, which were well met.

Mester shaped the suave and witty dance tunes with affection, basked in the written-in crowd-cheering section and skillfully evoked the eerie atmosphere surrounding the magical title figure of the ballet.

Disappointing, however, was Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue,” with piano soloist Patricia Prattis Jennings venturing an introspective, sensitive reading and Mester leading a plain-wrap, overt account of the work.

The conductor opened the program with a one-speed-fits-all approach to the Overture to Bernstein’s “Candide” and closed it with a series of marches by Sousa, to which the fireworks were synchronized.


Unfortunately, the taller housing erected over the stage in November caused fire officials to order the fireworks display moved off to the right, so those sitting in the first eight or nine rows of the orchestra section missed seeing about 30% of the attractive, if less than spectacular, pyrotechnics.

The program was underwritten in part by Huntington Harbour residents Dr. and Mrs. Wayne Allen. In dubious taste, Dr. Allen was brought on stage to conduct the National Anthem.

The official audience tally was 9,516, a new high for attendance at a Pacific Symphony concert.

Mester will return July 22 to lead the next summer program.