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Music Review : Pasadena Chamber Group Offers 'American' Concert

May 15, 1986|JOHN HENKEN

The "American" concert offered by the Pasadena Chamber Orchestra proved a quirky, stimulating and ultimately very satisfying affair. In other words, a typical effort by conductor Robert Duerr and his ensemble.

It began with the world premiere of "Fantasia: Federico Garcia Lorca," a commissioned work by USC-trained composer Ian Krouse.

The four-movement work draws on Spanish tunes used by Lorca and Falla, deftly orchestrated in an appealing popular vein. Stravinsky and Copland can be heard in it as readily as Falla, Torroba and Rodrigo; Krouse contributed nothing original in style or substance.

"Fantasia" is an attractive orchestral vehicle, and the audience in Ambassador Auditorium on Tuesday evening clearly enjoyed it. Duerr led a zesty, evocative performance, although his exaggerated gyrations seemed to confuse some of his players-- notably the two guitarists added by the composer--in the finale.

Duerr, always an extroverted podium presence, was in exceptionally athletic fettle, putting moves on his orchestra more common to particularly intense games of dodge-ball. But in Ives' Symphony No. 3 the orchestra remained a remarkably alert, cohesive unit. Balances were not always ideal, and the ending was underplayed, yet this was a strong, purposeful reading.

The orchestra shrank throughout the program. John Adams' minimal "Shaker Loops" proved that the string section can count. The original version of Copland's "Appalachian Spring," for 13 instruments, demonstrated more conclusively the prowess of the orchestra's principals. They gave a wonderfully bright, poised performance, and Duerr focused their efforts in a fresh, controlled interpretation. Three Joplin rags ended the concert.

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