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MUSIC | REVIEW

Fierce movements at Pacific Symphony

January 13, 2006|Daniel Cariaga | Special to The Times

A firm and decisive musical leader, the British-born conductor David Lockington has become a regular visitor to the Pacific Symphony podium. He returned to Costa Mesa this week with a charming program consisting of a Delius intermezzo, the Elgar Violin Concerto and Tchaikovsky's Second Symphony. His distinguished soloist, appearing with the orchestra for the first time, was veteran violinist Pinchas Zukerman.

The Elgar Concerto is both maligned and adored, sometimes by the same listeners. Its lengthy opening movement often seems to ramble, but its slow movement is among the composer's inspired gems, and its finale, as it proved again Wednesday night in Segerstrom Hall, can create magic between soloist and spectators.

Zukerman has long been a passionate advocate of the work and brought his kaleidoscopic resources of unfailing virtuosity and emotional kinship to bear. Lockington and the orchestra responded with tight and detailed support.

Brilliance, sometimes even overplaying, marked the orchestra's realization of Tchaikovsky's "Little Russian" Symphony, an appropriate showcase for the ensemble's high level of achievement. Lockington found myriad contrasts in the wondrous piece. He did not demand, however, all the soft playing of which this orchestra is capable, and unwanted stridency appeared regularly.

A lack of the quieter end of the dynamic spectrum was particularly noticeable in the concert's opener, "The Walk to the Paradise Garden" from Delius' opera "A Village Romeo and Juliet." In an evening of strong and faceted playing, this piece apparently suffered from too little preparation; its many beauties never bloomed.

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