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Music Review : Keith Clark Leads Pacific Symphony At Arts Center

November 07, 1986|DANIEL CARIAGA | Times Music Writer

Heroism was the undisputed subject and apparent goal of Keith Clark's latest Pacific Symphony program, performed Wednesday and Thursday nights in Segerstrom Hall at the Orange County Performing Arts Center.

In a program listing Mozart's Overture to "Le Nozze di Figaro," the Cello Concerto by Dvorak and Richard Strauss' "Ein Heldenleben," Clark stayed on the subject and approached the goal. His enlarged instrumental ensemble, sensibly deployed on the stage floor--with woodwinds and brass on low risers at the rear--played splendidly and with remarkable precision throughout this exposing program.

Heard Wednesday night from halfway back in the orchestra section, the climax to the evening, though never a raucous one, was Strauss' compendium of orchestral effects, post-Romantic musical indulgences and colorful instrumental writing.

Here, Clark's understated podium rhetoric resulted in an admirably un-noisy reading of "Heldenleben," one which demonstrated the wide emotional range of the work and the broad dynamic palette of this orchestra. For some listeners, both had to be surprising.

Full and consistently mellow string tone--particularly from the cellos--and virtuosic but articulate solo lines from within the orchestra marked this performance. At the conclusion, solo bows went to concertmaster Endre Granat and principal hornist James Thatcher, whose contributions proved sterling. The total performance, tightly paced and musically cohesive, was the clear province of conductor Clark, who seemed to re-create Strauss' full mural in all its facets, and did so unflaggingly.

Clark also surprised in his sympathetic collaboration with soloist Janos Starker in a re-thought account of the Dvorak concerto. It was a reading that found the heroism in the work through a sensitive contemplation of its lyric and dramatic elements, not through mere aggressiveness or posing. Starker's songful, almost small-scale, approach to the work brought gorgeous and provocative returns, and his deep concentration almost stopped a chorus of coughers from distracting other listeners in a touching performance of the slow movement.

The evening began with a "Nozze di Figaro" Overture of motivated breathlessness and clear articulation.

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