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MUSIC REVIEW : Falletta an Able Guide for Long Beach Season Opener

September 20, 1993|DANIEL CARIAGA | TIMES MUSIC WRITER

Crisscrossing the space above the Terrace Theater stage, pastel streamers connected ceiling to stage walls to proscenium at the opening of the Long Beach Symphony's new season, Saturday night.

Such festive motifs are appropriate for any North American symphonic organization still operating, as does this one, in the black. Artistically, too, as shown in its playing this week, the Long Beach orchestra has much to celebrate.

Beginning her fifth season as music director, JoAnn Falletta put together an engaging program and conducted it with panache. Her players responded with brilliant, beautifully balanced playing throughout, displaying a consistency that in recent years has been a sometime thing. Of course, it didn't hurt at all that at mid-evening, the soloist in Ravel's G-major Concerto was that splendid musician-among-pianists, Jeffrey Kahane.

The familiarities of the Ravel work did not cloy in this reading, for Kahane and his in-sync collaborators had apparently rethought every aspect of the piece, as if preparing a premiere performance. The results were characterized by freshness, neatness and a sense of propulsion under control.

The pianist took the time to shape phrases elegantly, yet did so without self-consciousness. His technique in rapid passages shone, shedding light on the composer's brightness, not on the soloist's skills. No performance ever achieves definitiveness, but this one, in the glow of many perfect moments, came close.

Falletta's authority, and the orchestra's ease of execution, made their revival of Dvorak's Seventh Symphony cherishable. A skeptic would guess that extra rehearsal time had been found for its preparation. Whatever the cause, this performance had--aside from some wayward solo lines in the exposing second movement--both mellowness and virtuosity in abundance, highlighted by the conductor's sense of purpose and continuity.

No kiss-off overture started the proceedings. Falletta offered a genuine novelty in the seldom heard "Peacock" Variations of Kodaly, then coaxed from her accomplished players a kaleidoscopic reading, full of rhythmic kick, dynamic variety and emotional expansiveness.

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