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Music Review : Sergiu Schwartz With Youth Symphony

December 24, 1985|MARC SHULGOLD

Mehli Mehta has always been an unblushing Romantic. The American Youth Symphony's venerable music director regularly steers far away from the coolness of the Baroque or 20th-Century orchestral literature. His credo--the warmer the better.

Thus, the program on Sunday at Royce Hall, UCLA, was right up his alley: Wagner's explosive "Meistersinger" Prelude, Bruch's schmaltzy Violin Concerto No. 1 and that all-time tear-jerker, Tchaikovsky's "Pathetique" Symphony.

Of the three, the "Pathetique," oddly enough, emerged the weakest entry, perhaps due to insufficient preparation (the talented young ensemble rehearses only on Saturdays, after all), or perhaps due to an unusually distracted conductor. Premature applause and occasional unwelcome onstage noises seemed to interfere with Mehta's concentration.

Though the tricky transitions of the opening movement were handled gracefully and logically, the peculiar little lilt of the second movement never surfaced. The powerful third movement, serving as the storm before the calm, was just the ticket for this extroverted orchestra, though the brass could have exercised some restraint.

Applause has become traditional at the conclusion of this rousing march, but Mehta would have none of it, angrily throwing out his arms to stifle audience response. The resulting wave of embarrassed chuckles from the sizable house all but drowned out the sorrowful outpouring that begins the finale--and it was all uphill from there.

Though Bruch's Concerto has garnered most of its popularity from the tuneful last movement, there are enough moments elsewhere to sustain interest--if the pacing avoids sluggishness and if the soloist exhibits a rich tone and ample technique.

Israeli violinist Sergiu Schwartz certainly held up his end, displaying a smooth, suave sound (though his pitch seemed to be a touch flat) and enough of a technical command to communicate the solo part, rather than overwhelm with it. He is not a flashy player, a quality not necessarily required in this piece.

Mehta led a mostly sluggish, meandering accompaniment that failed to ignite until the finale.

The evening opened with an ear-splitting traversal of the "Meistersinger" Prelude.

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