CLASSICAL MUSIC / KENNETH HERMAN : Sidlin's Pops Motto--Ask and Ye Shall Receive

Conductor Murry Sidlin brings his quick wit and knowledgeable baton to the San Diego Symphony SummerPops this week. Wednesday through Saturday night at Hospitality Point, he will depend on the taste of the audience to help program the concert he calls "You Asked for It."

"The printed program will identify each category, such as overture, symphony, concerto and ballet," Sidlin explained. "There are three selections in each category, and I'll play some of the more familiar snippets of each piece. Then, the audience votes for the piece they want to hear with their applause. I can usually tell from stage which one wins, but we can turn to an applause meter to settle any close calls."

Sidlin does not claim to have invented this pops concert format, but he took a suggestion from a fellow conductor and improved on it.

"Part of the idea is to have fun with classical music. There is nothing stuffy or pretentious in the way I do this. Everything is humorous, except the performance of the music itself, which we play in the style appropriate to each piece."

Sidlin has made his mark locally conducting the San Diego Symphony's successful "Classical Hits" series. His informed but informal approach to orchestral music--especially the more popular spectrum of the repertory--has won a loyal following to this series. Next to the orchestra's Nickelodeon series, which presents orchestra-accompanied silent films, "Classical Hits" is the best-subscribed series the symphony offers. The symphony management inaugurated "Classical Hits" last season and eagerly renewed it for 1989-90.

Part of Sidlin's success stems from his respect for his audience. Even moderating a children's concert with a less-than-attentive assembly in Symphony Hall, Sidlin never talks down to his listeners.

"I have a lot of faith in audiences. They might not know great music when they hear it, but they know bad."

The New Haven, Conn.-based conductor approves of the San Diego Symphony's steady progress over the last year, notably the appointment of a new music director and the increased attendance at the SummerPops concerts.

"It's good to see that the community is responsive to the orchestra, and it's satisfying to visit a success story."

Though Sidlin has not met with Yoav Talmi since his appointment as the symphony's music director designate, he had nothing but praise for him.

"I met him once and have seen him conduct the orchestra. He is a powerful musician of great depth; I know he will stimulate artistically both the orchestra and the community."

Talmi they like. When Yoav Talmi made his Houston debut last month, he earned his spurs with the Texas critics. Talmi conducted a pair of programs for the Houston Symphony's Mostly Mozart Festival.

According to the Houston Post's critic Carl Cunningham, "Talmi displayed a brisk, vigorous, straight-forward style of conducting that resulted in clean, strong, unaffected performances of works by Handel, early Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven." The Haydn work on the program, the C Major Cello Concerto, featured cellist Ralph Kirshbaum, currently performing in La Jolla with SummerFest '89.

After hearing both of Talmi's Houston programs, Charles Ward of the Houston Chronicle wrote, "He is a forceful leader able to find intriguing thoughts in well-known works and to coax strong performances out of tired musicians." Talmi will be back in San Diego in early October for the opening of the San Diego Symphony's 1989-90 season.

A bargain at any price. A $50 glass of champagne may seem a trifle upscale, but it's for a worthy cause. And the price includes a concert by the San Diego Symphony with Mstislav Rostropovich--the world's reigning cello maestro--playing Dmitri Shostakovich's First Cello Concerto. The Symphony Towers grand opening celebration, the orchestra's fund-raising salute to its newly opened 34-story neighbor, is scheduled for 7 p.m. Sept. 9, at Symphony Hall.

Concert-goers will receive a glass of domestic bubbly in the Symphony Hall lobby before the concert begins. For those symphony patrons larger philanthropic urges, the $250 ticket for the benefit includes a buffet dinner on the 12th-floor of Symphony Towers after the performance.

The racket squad. The visiting virtuosi of La Jolla's SummerFest are known for their love of tennis and other sporting diversions. Violinist Cho-Liang Lin's tennis prowess is part of his mystique, but he was brought down in a doubles match on the courts last week. His partner was violist and festival artistic director Heiichiro Ohyama, whose backhand apparently is not as strong as his down bow.

Not to be outdone by the tennis jocks, cellist Ralph Kirshbaum tore fibers in his bowing arm during an exuberant table tennis match. His doctor warned that he might not be well enough to play the Beethoven Cello Sonata last Tuesday night, so the ever-gallant Andres Cardenes stood by ready to perform a violin sonata. Fortunately for Kirshbaum, the doctor declared his arm ready for musical action before curtain time.

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