For the final week of the New World Music Festival, Michael Tilson Thomas passed the baton to Eduardo Mata. The program Mata and the New World Symphony delivered Tuesday at Segerstrom Hall in Costa Mesa was perhaps the most intriguing--certainly the most oddly matched--of the orchestral offerings.
Mata, the Mexican-born, 45-year-old music director of the Dallas Symphony, gave the nod to his Latino heritage on the first half, scheduling Ginastera's "Pampeana No. 3" and Chavez's "Sinfonia India." Both are unduly neglected works, at least locally, but at the same time, neither proved a major rediscovery.
The "Pampeana," from 1954, is three formally focused movements of great color and energy. Slow but tautly sustained outer movements surround a vehement scherzo, all carefully crafted and showing little sign of dating.
The "Sinfonia India," from 1935, quotes actual Mexican Indian themes with broadly and clearly scored vigor. Both neo-Classicism and Primitivism a la Stravinsky and Copland are as influential as the folkloric material, which sounds thoroughly European in context, the use of native percussion notwithstanding.
Mata's readings sounded overly deliberate, for all the fine fury of the central "Pampeana" movement and Chavez's mechanically orgiastic coda. Though technically assured, there was more caution and duty than magic or emotion in these performances.
The post-intermission partner to those effusions of New World modernism was the Old World nobility of Beethoven's Violin Concerto. Paradoxically, spirits were freer here, boosted no doubt by the genial, ardent efforts of soloist Cho-Liang Lin.
The 27-year-old Taiwanese violinist brought a warm, medium-size tone, endlessly agile fingers and considerable interpretive sympathy to the task. He integrated his part smoothly into the orchestral fabric in the first movement, emerging only in a bold, direct-drive account of the Kreisler cadenza. In the Larghetto, though, he soared in gentle elegance above his colleagues, fastidiously directed by Mata.
After a chamber music concert tonight, the festival ends Saturday when the New World Symphony and the Pacific Symphony join forces, under Mata's baton, for a program at the Irvine Meadows Amphitheatre listing Gluck's Overture to "Iphigenie en Aulide," Hindemith's "Symphonic Metamorphosis" and Berlioz's "Symphonie Fantastique."