Music Reviews : Ravel and Richard Strauss by Riverside Orchestra

Now in the midst of its 31st season, the Riverside County Philharmonic has had a recent change of fortune along with its change of name--until a year ago, it was called the Riverside Symphony.

Longtime observers of the local musical scene have noted that, with the advent of Patrick Flynn as music director in 1988-89, the orchestra has taken on a new perspective. This with only a handful of personnel changes in an already professional ensemble that plays together fewer than a dozen times a season and operates on a modest $230,000.

New or just refurbished, that perspective was on view at the third concert of the season, Saturday night in historic, acoustically variable Municipal Auditorium, in downtown Riverside.

Flynn, a native of England who has served as principal conductor for American Ballet Theatre and in operatic posts in Australia and symphonic directorships on this continent, is a dynamic podium personality without being a grandstander.

His lively performances have a conviction and tautness that compel. Saturday, with his own orchestra, he achieved a high level of communication.

Most impressively, he drew from the 75-member orchestra the kind of polished, transparent, sweeping and subtle performance of Ravel's Second "Daphnis et Chloe" Suite.

In "Daphnis," as in Richard Strauss' seldom-heard first tone poem, "Macbeth," and Prokofiev's Third Piano Concerto, the orchestra responded thoroughly to Flynn's ministrations in favor of stylistic contrasts, self-listening, pointed solo lines and the broad musical arch. Certain first-desk and sectional weaknesses aside--the lower strings need beefing up, for instance--this orchestra deserves its growing reputation.

Soloist in the Prokofiev concerto was a gifted youngster, Aika Nishi, who won this appearance in the 1989 Joanna Hodges International Competition; Nishi met all the digital requirements in the piece but not its coloristic ones.

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