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Music Review : Vienna Symphony: Solid, Pedestrian Outing

November 16, 1994|DANIEL CARIAGA | TIMES MUSIC WRITER

COSTA MESA — Making another Southern California stop--but only its first Orange County appearance--on its seventh U.S. concert tour, the Vienna Symphony and its music director, Rafael Fruhbeck de Burgos, arrived at the Orange County Performing Arts Center in Costa Mesa Monday night with an unhackneyed program, which it played strongly.

In Webern's Passacaglia, Opus 1, the Horn Concerto No. 2 by Richard Strauss and Brahms' Fourth Symphony, Vienna's second orchestra--the Philharmonic being its first--gave clean, neat and careful performances.

Still, much was missing. For starters, a lack of imagination and inspiration from the podium, and characterization by telling details from the ranks.

There is subtext in all orchestral performances. Sometimes it is merely the urgency and continuity enforced by a conductor's will. Sometimes it is a shared programmatic intent between leader and led, creating meanings unspecified by, but idiomatic to, the composer.

Too often, as here, it is a neglect of the listener, an assumption that careful and well-shaped note-playing will suffice where mental connections and emotional projection are actually a necessity.

Efficiency and well-honed instrumental skills abound in this orchestra, which certainly plays with more cohesion and confidence than it did when last we heard it, at the concerts opening Ambassador Auditorium in 1974. But, on this occasion, under Fruhbeck, very little of this admirable program actually came to life, though, paradoxically, it sounded well.

The excellent, virtuosic and mellow-toned soloist in the Strauss Concerto was the orchestra's solo horn, Australian musician Hector McDonald. He was handsomely seconded by his colleagues.

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