MUSIC REVIEW : 'Shakespeare' Show Stumbles

Though Shakespearean verse may be colorfully Elizabethan, Garden Grove Symphony director Edward Peterson demonstrated a decidedly romantic streak in choosing works for a program titled "Sounds of Shakespeare."

Only "Geographic Sketches" for clarinet and chamber orchestra by local composer Brent Pierce--given its premiere Saturday night at Don Wash Auditorium--ventured far from 19th-Century idioms.

By labeling the second of six short movements "England (Stratford--Puck's Dance)," Pierce tenuously tied his jazzy suite to the evening's theme. In truth, it was a connection better severed.

Soloist Nancy Peterson could not claim playfulness as part of her artillery. The orchestra's principal clarinetist relied on deft control to carry her through hill and vale. Her steadiness served well in dialogue between soloist and orchestra. But a dull dynamic palette left the overall topography flat.

Thespians Laura Mitchell and Wayne Watkins, of the Grove Shakespeare Festival, plumped up the orchestral offerings with introductory scenes chosen from appropriate plays. The actors seemed not to have familiarized themselves with the music that would follow, however; the aptness of their choices appeared to have been left to chance.

Watkins' good-natured Puck provided a happy preface to Mendelssohn's Scherzo from "A Midsummer Night's Dream" and the balcony scene set the stage well for the Overture to Tchaikovsky's "Romeo and Juliet." But Desdemona's despair over her husband's callous rejection formed an odd contrast to Verdi's quixotic Ballet Music from "Otello."

All the world may be a stage but on Saturday night, with the 85-member orchestra crammed onto the stage and the two actors braving a tiny corner off to the left, the world seemed decidedly small.

Nevertheless, the musicians ventured a spirited attack. As might be expected from an orchestra that is still 50% community based, the results were mixed.

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