Fair Winds Buoy a Flawless Pacific Symphony


Even with the most sophisticated and state-of-the-art sound systems, acoustical potluck is what listeners at outdoor concerts receive. Forget musical conditions--what matters is climate and humidity. Certain environments deliver sound best, and luck and the whims of Mother Nature play important roles.

The Pacific Symphony got lucky at the second event in its 1999 summer series at Irvine Meadows Amphitheatre on Saturday night. Certainly, thorough rehearsal and an inspired conductor made important contributions, but climatic conditions and a first-class sound system were also critical to this evening.

The playing was superb. Carl St.Clair's conducting choices proved in every instance the right ones. And the soloist, pianist Jorge Federico Osorio, fairly took one's breath away.

Osorio, a native of Mexico City who has visited us before, commanded, caressed and re-created Rachmaninoff's familiar Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini with stunning authority and a nuanced musical poetry.

He made the F-major variation a thrilling cascade of jewels: pearly notes in a diamond-hard setting. He delivered the famous 18th Variation with deep understatement: When the melody appeared, it was like a quiet and unexpected confession of love. And, throughout, Osorio created a palpable sense of continuity. He was assisted handsomely by St.Clair and the orchestra.

A well-behaved--and we don't take that for granted, given the noisy, rude crowds sometimes found at the Hollywood Bowl--audience of 6,835 also heard virtuosic playing in the symphony's elegant revivals of Rimsky-Korsakov's "Capriccio Espagnol" and the Ravel orchestration of Mussorgsky's "Pictures at an Exhibition."

Principals of the ensemble--in particular concertmaster Paul Manaster, clarinetist Joshua Ranz and the four horn players--contributed sterling soloism, but the entire ensemble excelled. The playing proved transparent and virtually immaculate. Blame the three-quarter moon? Perhaps, or just good fortune and real accomplishment.

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