The South Coast Symphony seems to have a lot going for it. Youngish, enthusiastic personnel, intelligently planned programs and, on Saturday, an opportunity to play in Santa Ana High School's spacious and resonant auditorium.
The orchestra also has the youthful but effective leadership of John Larry Granger, who is in his fourth season at the helm. Granger's gestures appear stiff and ungainly, but they usually work; precise attacks and releases, secure rhythms and good balances characterized the orchestra's playing.
In Vaughan Williams' Third Symphony, Granger maintained a fine sense of momentum and skillfully brought out the frequent changes in mood. He could have made more of the many rapid crescendos and decrescendos in the third and fourth movements but, all told, his was a probing account of a work that ought to receive more performances than it does.
A number of solo players contributed handsomely to this reading--notably English hornist Frederic Beerstein and violist Jane Levy.
Before intermission, two of the orchestra's principals gave a sensitive, poetic reading of Brahms' Double Concerto. Cellist John Walz played with warmth, passion and flawless precision; his playing sounds utterly natural and entirely personal. Violinist Moshe Hammer joined Walz; he, too, displayed brilliance, ardor and arching lyricism. He also exhibited impressive facility, even with a few detectable imperfections of intonation.
Granger's orchestra provided accurate, energetic support, but the tutti sections seemed to lack a clear sense of direction. Indeed, some rather anemic woodwind playing occurred during the second movement.