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Potential Evident : Pacific Chamber Gets Its Show Back On The Road

February 12, 1986|KENNETH HERMAN

SAN DIEGO — A certain English chamber orchestra, known for its prolific catalogue of recordings, got its start by playing in a church that lent its name to the group. Perhaps Pacific Chamber Ensemble conductor Ethan Dulsky had the illustrious Academy of St. Martin-in-the-Fields in mind when he launched his concert series at Westminster Presbyterian Church in Point Loma.

In any case, Dulsky's struggling group at this point could use some divine intervention on its behalf.

Barely into its first full season, financial constraints caused Pacific Chamber to cancel its December concert and reschedule last month's trumpet recital. On Monday night, however, Dulsky and crew got their show back on the road at the church, playing most of the previously announced concert for Feb. 10.

From its performance, it's clear that the group has definite musical potential. If Dulsky can keep his players together--the personnel of his first violin section is noticeably volatile--he could mold a respectable chamber orchestra. Their account of Mozart's Symphony No. 29 was unforced and sprightly; both conductor and players displayed a genuine feel for the work's classical style.

On the podium, Dulsky's style is spare, disciplined and self-assured. His programming Monday night seemed a trifle odd: three orchestral suites and one symphony. Although the Bloch "Suite Modale" calls for solo flute, its idiom is so understated that it's unlikely to pass for even a small-scaled concerto.

Listening to Grieg's Holberg Suite followed by the Bloch suite, followed by Resphighi's Suite No. 3 from "Ancient Airs and Dances" turned out to be too much of a mediocre thing. It was like a potluck where everyone brought Jell-O salads.

Flutist Karl Canfield displayed a handsome, firm timbre in the Bloch suite, although Dulsky allowed the strings to overpower him in far too many places. Canfield caught the composer's plaintive mood with subtle and pliant phrasing.

If Grieg's Holberg Suite showed the orchestra's more praiseworthy traits, a buoyant ensemble sound and a sympathy for melancholy melodies, the Resphighi suite showed an unhappy combination of poor intonation, especially in the lower strings, strident fortes and scrappy coordination in the rapid passages.

In the next two weeks on consecutive Monday nights, San Diego's other chamber orchestras will perform. It could prove instructive for local chamber music aficionados to take stock of the home teams.

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