Although only one of the works on the program was written in the 19th century, Romantic ethos flourished at the Terrace Theater on Saturday. Music Director JoAnn Falletta led the Long Beach Symphony in works, by Kodaly, Joan Tower and Tchaikovsky, that explore emotion-filled effect, and require split-second mood shifts and virtuosic command.
Tower's Clarinet Concerto--receiving its West-coast premiere although written eight years ago--sent soloist David Shifrin on a whirlwind of demanding passage work, sudden register changes and multihued dynamics, to which he responded with attentive insistence and seemingly endless breath control.
Tower has created a powerful piece, deserving of more frequent hearing. It stands as a single movement that divides into traditional fast-slow-fast sections, dark, busy and threatening music broken by atmospheric musings which become increasingly foreboding. Relationships between solo and orchestral roles are tight and symbiotic, with some sense of pianistic improvisation (Tower began her career as a pianist), despite idiomatic and exacting scoring.
Falletta conducted Tchaikovsky's intensely personal Fourth Symphony with a clear sense of purpose and decisive distinction between sweeping statement and quiet nuance. The Scherzo, in particular, emerged light, rhythmically precise and distinguished by subtle dynamic inflection.
Kodaly's "Dances of Galanta,"which opened the concert, suffered a warmup period during which the orchestra seemed to find its characteristic gypsy motives unwieldy. Principal clarinetist Gary Bovyer came to the rescue with soulful, astute solos.