Mediocre orchestras are among the more harmless things in life, it would seem, unless one finds oneself in the presence of such a phenomenon for more than a few minutes. The Glendale Symphony is such an orchestra, and Sunday night at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion its music director, Lalo Schifrin, compounded its middling qualities by choosing a program that would challenge far more accomplished ensembles.
Schifrin opened with Debussy's "Iberia," music of lacy elegance and wafting perfumes, but hardly lightweight orchestral fare. He raced through it with nervous distraction, producing a jumble of unseparated lines and colors and abrasiveness where persuasion is required.
The conductor followed with Copland's "Lincoln Portrait." Here the same general sloppiness prevailed, though the brashness of the playing seemed better suited to the patriotic outbursts and simpler textures of the music.
Martin Landau took on the narrating duties and, though far too heavily miked, delivered Lincoln's words with clarity and forcefulness.
After intermission, Schifrin enlisted his principal cellist and violinist, John Walz and Stuart Canin, as soloists in Brahms' Double Concerto. They proved a capable pair, matching each other in articulation and inflection and bringing tight-knit unity to their duo passages. Canin could sound strained in the upper register and Walz often became subsumed in the orchestral fabric, but they both revealed dramatic intensity and propulsive phrasing. Schifrin and orchestra lent scrappy though sturdy support.
As a prelude to the concerto Schifrin had offered a run-through of Gounod's "Funeral March of a Marionette" (mistitled in the program), which pushed the poor puppet curtly into his grave.