O.C. MUSIC : Kord Analyzes Pacific Symphony Trouble Spots : Guest conductor points to rehearsal area, outside work commitments and unevenness of public support as some of the problems that must be addressed.
About to depart after nearly 10 months as music adviser and principal guest conductor of the Pacific Symphony, Kazimierz Kord looks at the orchestra and sees some persistent trouble spots.
Brought in to oversee the orchestra during its search for a music director to replace founder Keith Clark, whose contract was not renewed, Kord will return to his home base with the Warsaw Philharmonic this summer. His final concerts with the Pacific are tonight and Thursday at the Orange County Performing Arts Center. Carl St. Clair assumes the directorship in the fall.
“They are very good musicians,” Kord said of the Pacific during an interview last week. “But they don’t have normal conditions to work in.” For one thing, he said, “this hall that they have to practice in"--the Pacific Symphony Center in Santa Ana--"is far away from what it should be” in terms of proper acoustics.
And better rehearsal space is just the tip of the iceberg. What the orchestra really needs is better rehearsals, period. Kord thinks it has to rehearse more frequently, during the day instead of at night and on weekends, with the same people at all the rehearsals.
The problem now is that many of the orchestra’s principal players can earn far more playing in Hollywood film and recording studios than the orchestra can pay them, and often they may be excused from rehearsals--and even concerts--to keep the more lucrative dates. “There is no stability,” Kord said.
Meanwhile, a catch-as-catch-can rehearsal schedule “means rehearsing when people are tired to death. Very late evening rehearsals are not productive. . . . Musicians are not at their best.”
The bright side, though, is that when the Pacific players do play classical music, it’s because they want to, not because they need the money. And comparing the Pacific to other orchestras he has led, Kord lauds the members for their enthusiasm.
“Working with these people,” he said, “I felt an extreme willingness of people who try their best.”
The “level we achieved at some concerts,” he feels, was less significant than the fact that “always, what we achieved at the end was very much higher from (where) we started.”
In any case, improving its musicianship is only part of the challenge facing the Pacific. Building a knowledgeable audience is at least as important.
Kord said he tried to develop the audience this year by programming pieces that would stretch its ability to understand and appreciate music. He felt thwarted, though, by the parade of candidates trying out for the music director’s job. Each candidate--understandably, Kord said--opted for big showpieces, works that would show them in the best light.
But “programs should send a message to the public,” Kord said. “When I read a program I must know: This year they show me this, another year they show me that, and in five years, such.” Furthermore, “every season should have an accent of some sort.”
Kord said he leaves Orange County feeling “a little bit upset” that he did not increase public support, especially from the everyday patron.
“The orchestra must have much support from people who pay maybe not thousands and thousands of dollars (but) maybe just small numbers (of dollars),” he said. “It must be a broad support. It must be developed. It is necessary.
“People who do not support this orchestra have not enough understanding. I believe that Orange County needs an orchestra. To make a culture harmonious with life, there must be something like an orchestra. It cannot be business only, cars only, building new buildings and at the same time no culture. I am convinced that people must make a stronger effort to build it here.”
Kord hopes to conduct the Pacific again some day.
Meanwhile, immediately after Thursday night’s concert, he heads to Tokyo, Osaka and Hiroshima for a series of performances to raise money for the Warsaw Philharmonic. “Then I go (back) to Poland--I hope with a lot of money, because they need it.”
After concerts in Warsaw, he will start recording a Shostakovich cycle and will tour Germany and Switzerland, then, in January, return to the United States. “Carousel, carousel, carousel--the normal life of an artist. It is tiring. I don’t like so much to be always changing planes, hotels, things of that sort. It is very hard.”
He faces an uphill struggle in getting support for his orchestra in Poland as the country undergoes radical political change.
“The situation in Poland is so changed now,” he said. “It is very complicated economically, which of course reflects what we can do with the orchestra. We’re trying to get organized. We have to deal with that now.”
Kazimierz Kord will conduct his final concerts as music adviser to the Pacific Symphony today and Thursday at 8 p.m. in the Orange County Performing Arts Center, 600 Town Center Drive, Costa Mesa. The program will include music by Debussy, Brahms and Mozart, with pianist Jose Feghali as soloist. Tickets: $9-$30. Information: (714) 556-2787.