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WEEKEND REVIEWS / Music

Long Beach Finale Emphasizes Rhythm

June 02, 1997|JOHN HENKEN | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Instrumental virtuosity, of both solo and ensemble kinds, was very much in evidence Saturday at Terrace Theater, as JoAnn Falletta and the Long Beach Symphony Orchestra closed their eighth season together. And beneath the dazzle, Falletta's challenging, cohesive program offered pointed lessons in the multifarious uses of rhythm.

In the grammar of Rachmaninoff's "Symphonic Dances," rhythm is both subject and object, and Falletta underlined all the nouns in her powerful parsing of the piece. This overemphasized the blocky structure of the third dance, but it also produced a darkly elegant, extraordinarily sinuous waltz with all its kinetic priorities clear.

In Barbara Kolb's 3-year-old "All in Good Time," rhythm is also a defining force, but here it acts in an adverbial or analytical capacity, measuring and describing rather than impelling. Seductively scored, "All in Good Time" has its own substantial and accessible rewards. It also partners the "Symphonic Dances" well, not least in assigning important solo work to a saxophone, stunningly played by Doug Masek.

The evening's soloist of record was the estimable Jon Kimura Parker, in Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 3. Here rhythm would seem to be the verbs, putting the spin on all the thematic juggling. Parker had plenty of ideas on how to set the music in motion and then goose it in unconventional but fully expressive directions, producing in the process a prodigious range of sound from a recently rebuilt Steinway. In encore he added a fleet, characterful account of Art Tatum's "Running Wild."

Falletta led a tidy accompaniment, rather reticent by Parker's flamboyant standard. Throughout the concert her orchestra played collectively with great strength and spirit, if not always immaculately, and its principals provided articulate solo utterances.

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