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Music Review : Romances Under the Stars

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Programmed excerpts from Prokofiev’s ballet may have inspired the Pacific Symphony to use “Romeo and Juliet” as the title of its second concert of the summer, but the real romance at Irvine Meadows Saturday night came from pianist Edith Chen.

The 24-year-old brought lyric fluidity to Grieg’s A-minor Piano Concerto. She left the true fortissimos and heavy accents to the orchestra but brought a tremendous variety of dynamics to serve nonetheless. Her slow movement and other quiet moments were painted pensively.

The winner of the 1993 Ivo Pogorelich International Solo Piano Competition brought plenty of fire to the virtuosic sections, not through bravura but through bright, pristine passages and decisive rhythmic propulsion in chordal sections.

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The orchestra lent tidy support, with individual flashes of sympathetic partnership from principal players Mark Adams on horn and Geraldine Rotella on flute.

In wise deference to the outdoor venue, music director Carl St.Clair programmed a festival of brass, Sibelius’ “Finlandia,” as the opening wake-up call. The musicians gave no great sweep to the work, but imbued it with much verve and attention to detail.

St.Clair also drew careful nuance from his band for Prokofiev’s ironies. Still, despite an affecting sectional duet between violins and violas for the balcony scene, the most involving communication came from soloists: first-chair winds, principal violist Robert Becker and acting concertmaster Jeanne Evans.

However, scores of the 6,825 in attendance apparently found avoidance of departing traffic more alluring than the throes of Shakespeare’s star-crossed lovers, for they started trooping out after music for the balcony scene, adding extra tumult to the following fracas depicting the fatal fight between Romeo and Tybalt.

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