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MUSIC REVIEWS

A Stylish, Light 'Scheherazade'

May 20, 1997|TIMOTHY MANGAN

With its colorful subject matter, hum-along tunes and brassy, cymbal-crashing climaxes, Rimsky-Korsakov's "Scheherazade" has become something of a pops concert staple. In other words, we don't respect it anymore.

But Frances Steiner, who guest-conducted the Glendale Symphony Sunday night in the Alex Theatre, has a different view. She hears it as a finely crafted and often delicate piece, as elegant as a silk tapestry, as sparkling as an illuminated manuscript.

Her approach worked wonderfully, even with the Glendale orchestra, which is without a music director and only comes together occasionally. It wasn't the most polished "Scheherazade," but the performance had plenty of style, poise, lightness and pop.

Steiner, music director of the Chamber Orchestra of the South Bay, secured diaphanous textures and graceful lyricism by getting the musicians to play in an unforced manner, softer, calmer and relaxed. Her tempos, too, were leisurely, but steady over the long haul, never sagging. Her understated ways allowed the material to whisper its charms, to finesse its steps. But she didn't forsake ample climaxes--she just waited for them.

Sidney Weiss offered lean, well projected violin solos. Among the many strong wind soloists, bassoonist Leslie Lashinski stood out.

On the first half of the program, 12-year-old violinist Howard Zhang revisited the virtuoso schmaltz of Lalo's "Symphonie Espagnole." He knows what stylistic knobs to turn and did so with a secure, often acrobatic technique and almost casual dispatch. One would like to hear him in better music though.

Rossini's "La Gazza Ladra" Overture started things off rather sloppily. Still, even here, Steiner managed some nice balances and perfectly timed crescendos--previews of things to come.

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