Symphony Ends Season on a Vibrant Note : MUSIC REVIEW

Conductor Jorge Mester closed the 66th season of the Pasadena Symphony at the Civic Auditorium on Saturday with a mighty noise--a committed, vibrant performance of William Walton's raucous "Belshazzar's Feast."

The work requires a large chorus, a Handelian baritone and a hugely augmented orchestra to paint, in simple, primary colors, the last hurrah of the Babylonian king who literally read the handwriting on the wall, to his dismay and the jubilation of the enslaved Israelites.

Here, the Pacific Chorale sang with lean tone, clear enunciation and effective dramatic engagement. Unfortunately, Peter Lightfoot brought a hooded, husky and at times unsteady baritone to his prominent solo duties.

The orchestra followed Mester with precision and vigor, two additional brass choirs at either side of the stage adding their jazzy, exclamatory punctuations.

But what to do with all that extra brass? For economy's sake, it made sense to find another work that could utilize the players, and Janacek's brilliant Sinfonietta, with its cascading opening fanfares, provided the opportunity.

Except for some lack of cohesion in the second section, the orchestra played with vivid alertness, strong ensemble and brilliant coloration.

Still, the interpretation fell just sort of achieving an ideally idiomatic style by smoothing attacks and making too regular the rhythms that are generally acknowledged as reflecting the complex speech patterns of the Czech language.

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