SAN DIEGO — Pity the musicians of the San Diego Symphony. Over the last week, no less than four conductors have appeared on the podium to lead this intrepid band. And with the exception of resident conductor Fabio Mechetti, who conducted Prokofiev's "Peter and the Wolf" in the middle of April 9's pension fund benefit concert, they are not likely to see these conductors again in the near future. It is no wonder that the orchestra's sound is unpredictable and its level of execution variable.
Friday evening's podium guest, Italian-born Guido Ajmone-Marsan, brought a sense of discipline and stylistic sensitivity that produced salutary results from the orchestra. From the opening "Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun," it was evident that Ajmone-Marsan knew how to shape a Gallic melody while keeping the accompanying fabric translucent. The Debussy proved a fitting showcase for the symphony's woodwind section, a cadre of soloists that can stand up to that of any major orchestra.
Sadly, the uncouth Symphony Hall audience took principal flutist Damian Bursill-Hall's deft, sensual opening solo as a cue to rummage through pockets and purses, followed by a ceremonious unwrapping of the retrieved mints and lozenges. Even though the program started late, patrons kept straggling in over the first 40 minutes of the concert. One wonders if the San Diego sun has bleached out any sense of etiquette among the natives and recent arrivals from presumably civilized climes.