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Music Reviews : Karr Solos With Debut Orchestra

February 24, 1986|JOHN HENKEN

When the Young Musicians Foundation Debut Orchestra took the Royce Hall stage--where the American Youth Symphony usually plays--Saturday night, a few double-takes could be excused. For one thing, the brass sections are almost identical, and the two groups share a number of other players.

But there can be no case of mistaken identity between the music directors. Compared to the mercurial Mehli Mehta--or just about any other conductor--Lalo Schifrin presents a reserved, almost reticent, podium manner.

In regulating the woodwind/trumpet dialogue and string background of Ives' "Unanswered Question," Schifrin's restraint proved effective. For Webern's orchestration of a Ricercar from Bach's "Musikalishes Opfer," it seemed inhibitory.

Schifrin made no concession to period style in his heavy, deliberate account of Mozart's Symphony No. 40. He kept the full orchestra onstage--nice for his young charges--yet never made them truly play softly. The result was a square, rich-sounding interpretation that managed excitement only in the Scherzo and Finale.

Double bassist Gary Karr, a YMF alum, had the solo honors. Like the players in so many brass ensembles, Karr is a virtuoso on an instrument with little repertory.

So, like those ensembles, he turns to humor. His arrangement of Paganini's Fantasy on Themes from "Mose in Egitto" was an excuse for all manner of mugging and comedic byplay. As in the Dragonetti Concerto also essayed, gruff crooning projected better than bustling bravura.

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