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MUSIC REVIEWS : Cellist Barta Plays Dvorak

April 12, 1993|DANIEL CARIAGA DANIEL CARIAGA..BD: TIMES MUSIC WRITER

Brilliant instrumentalism from some of the best players on this continent is a long tradition at the Glendale Symphony. Person for person, these musicians produce immaculate musical display on demand, every time out.

The orchestra's cohesiveness is another matter, and another tradition. In the last three decades of its history, this ensemble seems seldom to have given performances up to the level of its potential.

As heard at the latest Glendale Symphony event, in the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion of the Music Center, both traditions continue.

Saturday night, Lalo Schifrin, the ensemble's music director, was scheduled to lead an oddball but showy pops program. In the event, the agenda remained viable, with two provocative items deleted: Arthur Honegger's 69-year-old "Pacific 231" and John Adams' recent "Short Ride in a Fast Machine."

The remaining works, at least, moved upward in a straight line.

In the first half, Berlioz's "Roman Carnival" Overture, Smetana's "The Moldau" and Chabrier's "Espana" gave the Glendale virtuosos many opportunities to show their stuff. Schifrin's unimaginative conducting didn't usually get in their way, although many of the subtleties and nuances in these scores never materialized. And balances between instrumental choirs remained often askew, inner voices becoming either inaudible or overstated.

Most of the thrills in this concert were in its second half, wherein the Prague-born cellist, Jiri Barta, gave a resplendent and heroic performance of the Dvorak concerto.

Technically unfazeable, musically charismatic and blessed with a poet's sensibilities, Barta, who will be 29 this year, seemed to rediscover many of the joys in this familiar work. Schifrin and the orchestra assisted tightly and with obvious affection.

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