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MUSIC REVIEW

'Titanic' Sails at Hands of YMF Orchestra

May 06, 1997|JOSEF WOODARD

Sunday afternoon at the Wilshire Ebell Theatre, the YMF Debut Orchestra closed out its six-concert season in a blaze of friendly glory. The Youth Musicians Foundation is one of the area's more enlightened musical organizations, and young conductor Bundit Ungrangsee led his skilled charges with an impressive sense of purpose and feeling.

Before the official orchestra took the stage, we heard three tunes played by an orchestra of elementary school musicians who had just picked up instruments this year. It was a beautiful sound, with that rickety tenderness that transcends polish.

From the outset, the Debut Orchestra showed its mettle on the West Coast premiere of Peter Boyer's tone poem "Titanic," which veers in a different stylistic direction than Gavin Bryars' hypnotic "The Sinking of the Titanic." Boyer's evocative 13-minute piece shuffles a variety of themes, sometimes overlapping in an Ives-ian pile, with murmuring sound effects, and "Nearer My God to Thee" placed as an eerie benediction.

Principal cellist Yao Zhao came up front as soloist for Saint-Saens' Cello Concerto No. 1, Opus 33, handling the difficult task with unblinking ease and expressive zeal. The orchestra itself, dazzling despite an occasional raggedness or balance problem, was on display on the big, brawling terrain of Berlioz's "Fantastic Symphony: Episode in the Life of an Artist." Maturity is at hand.

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