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Golabeks’ Work High Point of Festival

With budget constraints reducing the 1991 Malibu Strawberry Creek Festival to a single week, music director Yehuda Gilad had one chance only to lead this year’s incarnation of the Festival Orchestra in concert. His program Saturday night in Smothers Theatre at Pepperdine University consisted of some extra-familiar Mozart and two not-overplayed concerto works.

A high-energy reading of Poulenc’s Concerto for Two Pianos, with Mona and Renee Golabek as soloists, turned out to be the evening’s high point. The pianists’ approach was one of controlled fury, eschewing the score’s more urbane charms and emphasizing its driving rhythms and spiky harmonies, enforcing a percussiveness that made Poulenc sound a lot like a French Prokofiev.

Their digital pointedness didn’t keep them from capturing the civilized sentiment of the lyrical passages, however, which they projected in luxuriant tones and flexible phrases, though offering bright accenting even here. They balanced aggressiveness with finesse in a memorable reading. After the Golabeks, Gary Gray’s account of Weber’s Concertino for Clarinet and Orchestra seemed a bit staid, though technically faultless and tasteful throughout. Gilad offered focused and tidy support.

He opened the concert with an equally neat, lively reading of the ‘Don Giovanni’ Overture, and concluded with a wonderfully old-fashioned performance of the Symphony No. 40 characterized by warm textures and breadth of line and broad pacing. Particularly enjoyable was the way the woodwind parts emerged relaxed and soft-spoken, not brightly highlighted. The non-observance of the finale’s second repeat, leaving one of Mozart’s more startling harmonic effects unheard, proved the only blemish.

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