The Glendale Symphony hasn't been worth a serious listener's attention in recent seasons. In financial hardship, its activity curtailed, without a music director, the orchestra played for a series of guest conductors--a ship without a helmsman.
But now, in the orchestra's 74th season, violinist Sidney Weiss has been put in charge. The former concertmaster of the Chicago Symphony and the Los Angeles Philharmonic is not known for his conducting skills. That may change, though, if Saturday's concert at the Alex Theatre is any indication.
What he has accomplished with the orchestra in a short time is impressive. The string section played as a cohesive unit, its tone burnished and mellow, balances weighed, intonation centered. The woodwinds crowned this with a warm halo of sound. Forced or edgy timbres were banished, panic was out, musical seriousness was in.
As a baton wielder and interpreter, there is not an ounce of flash in Weiss. In this Beethoven concert, the composer was depicted exclusively as noble philosopher, never as fiery, ill-behaved iconoclast. Tempos were slow, attitudes stately, pronouncements weighty, results mixed.
The "Egmont" Overture had plenty of profundity but not a consistent forward momentum. Jeanne Weiss, Sidney's wife, brought poise, pearly clarity and insightful shadings to the Fourth Piano Concerto, although rhythmic intensity and a leading force was sometimes lacking.
But the Violin Concerto, with Weiss as soloist and occasional conductor (concertmaster David Stenske did much of the actual timekeeping), was an unalloyed success. Here, with violin in hand, Weiss was readily able to bring expressive intensity and a silvery lyricism to the music, and the large orchestra, by necessity watching and listening to each other, accompanied with communicative warmth--a major league reading, worth serious attention.