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MUSIC REVIEW : Mixed Results for Halprin


IRVINE — With the departure of founder-music director Micah Levy--who is off furthering his conducting studies--the Orange County Chamber Orchestra has looked into its ranks to fill the gap. Concertmaster Diana Halprin has stepped up to the podium and directorship of the group; Sunday afternoon at Irvine Barclay Theatre, she got its 12th season underway.

Halprin has some conducting experience under her belt and in her debut directing the OCCO, she looked confident with a baton in her hand, leading in a clear, lyrical, no-nonsense style.

Can she improve the orchestra to a point where it is something other than a couple-dozen or so free-lancers who get together four times a season? Only time will tell. Right now the group lacks distinction: To overstate its merits or liabilities would be misleading. Sunday's results were mixed.

Halprin began the concert with the Concertino No. 6 thought once to be the work of Pergolesi and tentatively ascribed to Carlo Ricciotti in the program, but now known certainly and widely (except to these performers) as the work of Unico Wilhelm van Wassenaer. Halprin led an easygoing run-through, with a not altogether convincing electronic imitation of a harpsichord in support.

After a break in which she warmed up offstage, Halprin returned with violin in hand to play Beethoven's Violin Concerto, as new concertmaster Joseph Goodman took on the conducting duties.

Halprin, a onetime student of such violin luminaries as Galamian, Gingold and Milstein, gave a leisurely account of the score, technically first-rate, affectionate and assured. She turned up the intensity level a notch in the showy Fritz Kreisler cadenzas.

Goodman managed to pull some full sounds from the tiny orchestra (only eight violins for the concerto), and the woodwinds contributed glowing work, but he consistently lagged behind his soloist.

After intermission Halprin returned to the conductor's spot and offered a generally warm, occasionally forceful, unhurried and fairly messy account of Mozart's Symphony No. 40.

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