With an enormous American flag hanging as a backdrop behind the musicians and colorful Fourth of July bunting draped at the front of the stage, Keith Clark conducted the Pacific Symphony in a program of taut, vigorous music by four American composers--all of whom are still living--at Santa Ana High School on Saturday.
Concession to popular taste was slight: the rambunctious, tender Symphonic Dances from Bernstein's "West Side Story"; an easy-to-take premiere in Richard Nanes' Symphony for Strings (essentially a buoyant Johann Christian Bach-like symphony seen through the prism of edgy modern harmonies), and free slices of apple pie at intermission.
The other premiere--William Schmidt's Concerto for Trumpet and Orchestra--proved more knotty and abstract, although its development of the opening Petrouchka-like fanfare and its use of contrast as a thematic element maintained consistent interest.
Evident without question was solo trumpeter Anthony Plog's virtuosity--in endless trills, precise attacks, and seamless, filigree lines.
Providing the deepest sustenance of the evening, however, was William Schuman's Symphony No. 3, a masterpiece in symphonic form in which an authentic musical giant can be heard flexing his muscles boldly and authoritatively, blowing apart and resynthesizing 17th-Century forms such as the passacaglia and fugue.