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Music Review : Pacific Fills In As Center Substitute

March 19, 1987|CHRIS PASLES | Times Staff Writer

The kind of wayward interpretations Keith Clark and the Pacific Symphony dished up Tuesday at Segerstrom Hall should be cause for alarm among discerning Orange County music lovers.

Granted, Tuesday's program was a late substitution for an originally scheduled concert that would have presented trumpeter Maurice Andre. Still, Andre's cancellation because of illness had been known for more than a week and the substitute program had been scheduled for tonight anyway. And it will be played tonight.

So lack of time wasn't much of an excuse for Clark's distressing approach to Ravel's setting of Mussorgsky's "Pictures at an Exhibition."

Tempo and dynamics seemed to be the conductor's only variables, and they took precedence over concept and expressive phrasing. And forget character, mood and tone painting.

"The Old Castle" swayed to a lilt more appropriate to the Arabian Dance from Tchaikovsky's "Nutcracker." "The Polish Oxcart" rolled like a relentless freight train. "The Great Gate of Kiev" was shapeless, bombastic.

It all added up to a curiously abstract version of the music, peppered with such idiosyncratically slurred phrases and rhythms and odd accents that one wanted to consult Clark's score to see if he were using a faulty edition.

The orchestra managed to keep up with the demands and even created an attractive, light shimmer for the "Con mortuis in lingua mortua" section. But elsewhere there was sloppy playing; and throughout the evening the brass section had more than a fair share of problems.

By comparison, Clark's version of Mendelssohn's sparkling Symphony No. 4, "Italian," was merely blunt, graceless and workmanlike.

Sandwiched in between these works was the world premiere of Lalo Schifrin's Concerto for double bass, written for and performed by soloist Gary Karr. Schifrin conducted.

Karr had ample opportunities in this conservative three-movement work for dazzling virtuoso effects--double stops, trills, harmonics and frenetic cadenza passages, all of which he executed respectably, though with occasional intonation and voicing problems.

But for all its recurring themes and circular structures, the 30-minute work seemed hopelessly episodic and aimless. And Schifrin also exhibited the dubious distinction of being able to write tonal music without creating anything tuneful or memorable.

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