As pops concerts go, Saturday's offering from the Pasadena Pops--the first of three summer concerts at the Rose Bowl--was typical. That is, the program was a stylistic hodge-podge of overripe familiarities, the outdoor venue acoustically unsound, the amplification crude. Most important, the pretensions to artistic profundity were nil: Conductor Victor Vener made it clear that we were there to have fun.
Certainly those revelers gathered before the main entrance of the Rose Bowl and under the pall of various high-caloric meals and alcoholic beverages seemed to be having it.
The roller-coaster program could have given someone the willies. From Bernstein's "Candide" Overture, Vener turned to a clap-along Sousa march ("The Fairest of the Fair"), a medley from "My Fair Lady," a whistle-along "Colonel Bogey" March, and then "Rhapsody in Blue." After intermission, two movements from Mozart's Serenade were followed by Dixieland numbers played by the Rose City Ramblers and Respighi's "The Pines of Rome."
The orchestra sat on a stage set in front of the Court of Champions. The audience was arranged at tables on the asphalt leading downward to the parking lot. The acoustical merits of the space seemed dubious, but heavy amplification made such considerations unnecessary. At any rate, balances remained peculiar all evening.
Vener led the orchestra in solid but certainly not overrehearsed run-throughs. Robert Ward, the soloist in the Gershwin, proved a steady, stylistically correct if at bottom unimaginative protagonist.
Only in Respighi's "Pines" did anything like nuance and enthusiasm surface, but poor balances, a lack of extra brass and an anachronistic synthesizer compromised the grandiose finale. A good time was had by almost all.