SAN DIEGO — In a youth-obsessed culture, it is salutary to be reminded from time to time that the young do not possess every virtue. Christopher Keene conducted the San Diego Symphony Thursday evening with an unrelenting, impetuous drive that begged for a healthy dose of well-seasoned aplomb.
The sort of conductor who takes a running leap onto the podium and directs in nothing less than upper-case letters, the youthful Keene pushed the orchestra at full throttle most of the evening. While this produced some exciting moments, especially in Tchaikovsky's Third Symphony, it was also a bit enervating.
Music director of the New York City Opera, Keene is just the sort of conductor one prays for in a revival of some four-hour bel canto warhorse. In a work as infrequently played as the Tchaikovsky Third, however, it would not have been at all untoward to savor some of its finer moments, notably the elegiac middle movement.
Not only were Keene's tempos consistently rushed, his dynamics ran the gamut from loud to louder. Symphony Hall lends a warm patina to hushed orchestral timbres, but Keene explored no such avenues. He may have been standing front and center Thursday night, but his conducting revealed that his musical judgment was buried in some orchestral pit far below the opera proscenium.