On the heels of recent CDs of works by John Corigliano and Elliot Goldenthal, the Pacific Symphony this weekend embarks on its third recording project, three pieces by the late Japanese composer Toru Takemitsu. In preparation for the recording sessions, the orchestra played two of the works on the first half of its subscription concerts in Segerstrom Hall at the Orange County Performing Arts Center on Thursday and Friday.
Takemitsu vs. Brahms produced strong contrasts at the first of these performances. As led commandingly by Carl St.Clair, the Pacific Symphony’s music director, the program’s disparities proved complementary.
Takemitsu’s aesthetic compels the listener to pay attention not to form or structure as a work unfolds, but to each moment for its content of fabric, texture and timbre. Takemitsu’s neoimpressionistic sensibility, and St.Clair’s careful readings of the Requiem for Strings and the percussion-and-orchestra work “From me flows what you call Time,” created lush atmospheres and pinpoint detailing.
As it had when the Pacific ensemble gave the West Coast premiere of “From me flows . . .” five years ago, the Canadian percussion quintet Nexus appeared as soloists in an engrossing, often haunting, re-creation of the 30-minute piece.
The work moves from mood to mood, from strong feelings to quiet reflection with a continuity that keeps the observer focused on an unexpressed but palpable narrative.
After considerable overstatement in the opening movement of Brahms’ First--the balance between intensity and contemplation is the great stumbling block in this work--St.Clair’s reading offered musical sense and lyric authority, especially in the catharsis of the finale. Splendid solos from, among others, guest concertmaster Charles Stegeman, contributed strongly.