IRVINE — The South Coast Symphony closed its seventh season with a program that underscored the strengths--and weaknesses--of the orchestra's individual players. Sunday's concert at the Irvine Barclay Theatre consisted of two large works: Vivaldi's "Four Seasons" and Mussorgsky's "Pictures at an Exhibition."
The soloist for Vivaldi's concertos was concertmaster Vladimir Polimatidi, who proved to be a strong orchestral player but an uninspired soloist. Technically proficient, the violinist provided pleasant lyricism without poignancy, fast passage work without fire.
Polimatidi's polished phrases blended indistinctly into one another. However, his accompanists--a group extracted from the orchestra's strings--lent excitement through clear phrasing and accentuation.
Music director John Larry Granger chose safe tempos, a bit too conservative for the opening Allegro in "La primavera." Balance occasionally went askew--harpsichord and low string accompaniment buried the violins in part of "L'autunno." Still, Granger's band mustered tidy, attractive support overall.
Cellist Sebastian Toettcher communicated engrossing intensity in duet with Polimatidi during the "Rustic Dance," movement from "La primavera." As a continuo player, with harpsichordist Michael Linville, Toettcher conveyed equal absorption.
The restricted timbres of the Baroque concertos contrasted markedly with the kaleidoscope of colors in Ravel's orchestration of "Pictures at an Exhibition." Despite some thin patches from the violin section, which floundered against combined winds and percussion in "Bydlo," and fell prey to low strings in "The Old Castle," Granger generally received well-controlled balances in this spirited reading.
This version gives winds, in particular, a chance to flex their muscles. Principal trumpeter Alfred Lang strode boldly in the "Promenade" and whined plaintively in "Samuel Goldenberg and Schmuyle," while saxophonist James Rotter painted a mysterious "Old Castle."