Carmen Dragon died in March, 1984. Since then, the Glendale Symphony-- his Glendale Symphony--has been struggling in its search for a successor. A year with Daniel Lewis at the helm didn't quite work out. This season, the orchestra must endure a parade of guest maestros, beginning with Lalo Schifrin, who launched the Glendale season Saturday night in the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion.
Spirits didn't appear to be high on either side of Schifrin's music stand. Perhaps it was the conductor's stiff manner on the podium: Essentially a one-armed time-beater, he seemed uninterested in shaping and molding the performances of crowd favorites by Bizet, Liszt, Ravel and Bernstein. Even in the latter's Symphonic Dances from "West Side Story"--a piece so close in style to many of Schifrin's jazzy, bongo-inflected sound tracks--the energy just wasn't there consistently. Transitions were often weak and misdirected, momentum often lagged. This, despite some fine playing from the orchestra.
Ravel's "La Valse," too, never unfolded as it should. Rather than a misty and mystical look at the waltz, the piece came off as merely . . . a waltz. How odd that this complex, multilayered work should find the conductor mostly content to beat out three.
Though it took a while to ignite, Liszt's E-flat Piano Concerto elicited the most gratifying music making of the evening, thanks in large part to the inspiring solo contributions of the ever-dependable Daniel Pollack. The pianist stormed through the outer movements without sacrificing clarity, and heaved and sighed in the Adagio without an overbearing helping of rubato. Schifrin proved a sympathetic collaborator, most notably in the supercharged finale.
The program opened with a heavy-handed, mostly sluggish suite from Bizet's "Carmen."