Guest artist Demarre McGill (left) joined Symphony for works by Debussy and Ibert Sunday, November 11

David Bazemore

Guest artist Demarre McGill (left) joined Symphony for works by Debussy and Ibert Sunday, November 11

Santa Barbara Symphony at the Granada Theatre

Guest Artist Demarre McGill Joined Symphony for Works by Debussy and Ibert Sunday, November 11

This elegant program began with guest soloist Demarre McGill playing Claude Debussy’s Syrinx for solo flute while standing in the second-tier box, stage right. Suspended above the audience, McGill cut quite a figure in his dark blue dinner jacket, white shirt, and black tie, while holding a glistening instrument. His tone was rich and full, and maestro Nir Kabaretti allowed it to linger only moments before raising his baton and launching the full orchestra on the stage below into another Debussy classic, Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun. There’s little else in music that can replicate the dreamy suspensions of the Prelude, which rolled over the room in sensuous waves of sound. Just as the timelessness of the piece took hold, it was over, and all too soon. But the next work on the program, Jacques Ibert’s Concerto for Flute and Orchestra, made for an easygoing transition, and McGill, now with both feet firmly planted onstage, continued to impress. He matched the sound of the reduced orchestra note for note and teamed with Kabaretti to bring out the sophisticated rhythms of the piece’s many difficult passages.

After the intermission, it was time for one of the greatest of French orchestral works, the Symphony No. 3 in C Minor, Op. 78 “Organ” of Camille Saint-Saëns. As an organ player of great distinction, the composer knew just how to integrate this exotic element into the fabric of what is otherwise a reasonably conventional symphony. Those blasts of organ that marked its final movement seemed to come out of nowhere as Haesung Park sat before an instrument that was placed some yards away from the speakers, but the effect, like much else on this excellent program, was magical.

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