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Symphony Highlight : Cellist Walz Brilliant In His Dvorak Concerto

February 24, 1986|TERRY McQUILKIN

Those who heard the fourth concert of the South Coast Symphony Orchestra's current season may not have found themselves aurally or intellectually challenged. Without a doubt, though, they heard some brilliant, inspired playing Saturday evening.

A good deal of the brilliance and inspiration came after intermission, when cellist John Walz gave an unusually lyrical, unusually poignant reading of the Dvorak concerto. His radiant, full tone and flawless technique were matched by an extraordinary degree of expressivity. The young Southern California native savored every note and every phrase, but his playing never lost its momentum and sense of purpose. Even with a work as familiar as this, the listener found the performance an especially moving and gratifying experience. The orchestra, under John Larry Granger, provided energetic and reliable support, save for a few moments of shaky rhythm or questionable woodwind intonation.

Before intermission, Granger led the ensemble in a dynamic, committed performance of a work by a local composer. Syncopation, harmonies built on fourths and fifths, and folklike melodies give Daniel Robbins' Suite from "The Ages of Life" the stamp of good old American neoclassicism. The work's interest lies chiefly in its rapidly changing textures, catchy rhythms and skillful orchestration. The suite, taken from a ballet score and played for the first time Saturday night, does not boast much originality or innovation but proved nonetheless effective and appealing.

Granger opened the program with Schubert's Fifth Symphony. This reading had no shortage of energy and spirit, but subtlety and lightness seemed in short supply. Moreover, the strings appeared to have some difficulty in delivering rapid passages with sufficient clarity. One should note, however, the fine playing of wind principals such as oboist Fred Beerstein.

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