Before it turned into an orgy of patriotism, the "American Salute" by the Glendale Symphony led Sunday by Newton Wayland at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion offered several sufficient reasons to cheer our native-born composers.
Taking pride of place was Gershwin's Concerto in F, with soloist Leonard Pennario offering a lively, stylish interpretation, with hints of improvisation and rowdy honky-tonk inspirations. Unfortunately, any jazz impulses Pennario ignited were smothered by Wayland's bland accompaniment, which all too successfully cast over this perky, idiosyncratic masterpiece the anonymity of movie sound-track music.
Three choruses by Copland, including the luminous "Promise of Living," come as close as anything can to giving musical form to deep and shared national values, even when they received such dutiful, spiritless attention as that given them by the Southern California Mormon Choir.
But musical values began to give way to bumper-sticker sentiment with Morton Gould's "American Salute," an overblown fantasy on "When Johnny Comes Marching Home," though this work found the orchestra in fine, energetic form.
And in contrast to Copland's folk-inspired simplicity was the pumped-up, manufactured, civics-text banalities of "So Many Voices Sing America's Songs" by Bruce Belland and Robert F. Brunner. Bryon Ray Wood was the loudly amplified bass soloist.
Similarly, in "A Foster Fantasy," Stephen Foster's beloved songs were distorted by Jerome Neff's over-ingenious orchestrations and rose-colored approach that overlooked Foster's dying penniless, and in the midst of the Civil War.
A sing-along "Grand Patriotic Melody," ending with a reprise of the National Anthem (as usual, the Glendale concert had started with it), left the audience standing and cheering. Wayland led Sousa's "Stars and Stripes Forever" as an encore.