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MUSIC REVIEWS : Vienna Symphony Stays Course in Cerritos

November 14, 1994|CHRIS PASLES | TIMES STAFF WRITER

CERRITOS — Performances of Ravel's familiar orchestration of Mussorgsky's "Pictures at an Exhibition" can tip the balance toward either composer. Rafael Fruhbeck de Burgos, leading the Vienna Symphony on Saturday at the Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts, favored the Frenchman.

The conductor emphasized clarity, balance, luxuriant sound and the brilliantly conceived scoring, as opposed to expressions of Slavic soul. This emphasis also surfaced in music by Mahler and Hans Erich Apostel, also on the program. Fruhbeck will lead the orchestra in a different program tonight in Costa Mesa, under the sponsorship of the Orange County Philharmonic Society.

Saturday's results were eminently well-delineated but depersonalized "Exhibition" pictures. The crescendo and falling off in "Bydlo" were seamless, for instance, but the Polish oxcart did not bear the weight of ages. The trumpet in "Samuel Goldenburg and Schmuyle" articulated its nervous patter perfectly, but the pain within the whining never materialized. "The Great Gate at Kiev" reveled in orchestral colors, but not in the triumph of the spirit.

A triumph of the spirit also was what Mahler wanted in his Tenth Symphony, which he did not complete. He did, however, finish the Adagio, holographic in portraying stages toward accepting death.

OK, we can do without the swooning and schmaltz, which some conductors stress, maybe. But not without the Angst, the protest, the alarms, the comfort, the little dances back into life before the final quiet acceptance.

Fruhbeck relied mainly on muscular line, clean articulation and accumulated architecture for effect. He got it toward the end, as the tempo slowed yet again, the massive scoring died down to shimmering strings, the oboe initiated recollections of heroism. But a lot of the journey to this point had lacked character.

He had opened the program with another fragment--Apostel's Passacaglia, the only movement of a projected Concerto for Orchestra that the composer lived to complete. The four-minute threnody, written according to strict dodecaphonic procedures, partakes of affecting Bergian lyricism, however.

As an encore, Fruhbeck led the spirited Intermezzo from Gimenez's "La Boda de Luis Alonso."

* The Orange County Philharmonic Society presents Rafael Fruhbeck de Burgos conducting the Vienna Symphony in music by Brahms, Strauss and Webern today at the Orange County Performing Arts Center, 600 Town Center Drive, Costa Mesa. 8 p.m. $17 to $45. (714) 553-2422.

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