Music : John Williams Unveils Premiere in Riverside


Somehow, the Riverside County Philharmonic found itself with a John Williams world premiere on its hands Saturday night in Municipal Auditorium. Not only that, the Boston Pops maestro was around to conduct his new work, a Concerto for Clarinet written for the much-admired principal clarinetist of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Michele Zukovsky.

For all of the attention that this concert might bring Riverside, the work doesn’t do much for Williams’ own reputation.

About 21 minutes long, the concerto rumbles and meanders about in a generic never-never land between tonality and dissonance. Whatever one may think of them, at least Williams’ ubiquitous film scores have a distinctly grandiose personality and flair, whereas this faceless concerto seems to go out of its way to avoid its creator’s imprint.


The piece did give Zukovsky a good workout with its skittery, showy solo flights over the routine orchestral sheen--and she delivered the goods with agile strength and liquid tone. However, the Riverside orchestra’s own contributions were compromised by truly wretched amplification.

As bookends for his concerto, Williams hauled out two of his infinitely more memorable crowd-pleasers, the March from “Raiders of the Lost Ark” and “Adventures on Earth” from “E.T.,” which the orchestra executed with overall cohesion despite some very rough edges. After intermission, the orchestra’s music director, Patrick Flynn, took over the baton with a Dvorak “New World” Symphony that settled in vigorously after some misshapen wallowing in the first movement.