Can a businesslike, no-nonsense conductor like John Larry Granger find happiness with a slam-bang, rip-up-the-joint blockbuster like Saint-Saens' "Organ" Symphony?
Not really. At least, not with the limited forces of his South Coast Symphony, as demonstrated at a concert in Robert B. Moore Theatre, Orange Coast College, on Saturday night. Granger, an efficient if somewhat introverted conductor, elicited crisp passage work and often exuberant playing, while never allowing this often unwieldy beast of a symphony to get away from him.
But let's face it, the work requires much more--more power than the brass could provide, more sensuousness than the often shrill strings could muster, more lushness, more tension, more guts.
Samuel John Swartz attended to his modest chores at a borrowed Allen organ with his usual calm professionalism.
A bank of 14 speakers mounted at the rear of the orchestra projected the organ sound clearly, though the massive chords that launch the finale never quite overwhelmed as they must. Similarly, the faintly heard contribution of pianists Rita Borden and Les Falconer seemed more an afterthought than a crucial coloristic component.