UCSB Symphony

At Lotte Lehmann Concert Hall, Wednesday, June

Reviewed by Gerald Carpenter

The accent was definitely on youth in Lotte Lehmann Hall
Wednesday evening. It wasn’t until the awards ceremony at
intermission that there was someone over 25 onstage — unless the
conductor, Sean Newhouse, is a lot older than he looks.

The other accent of the first half was on virtuosity, as the
three winners of this year’s Concerto Contest showed us, one at a
time, exactly what all the fuss was about. Curiously, there was not
a fiddler or pianist among them. As young as he looked, Newhouse
was nevertheless in confident command throughout, and the orchestra
played very well for him.

First out was flautist Alison Hazen to solo in the Fantasie
Brillante sur “Carmen” for Flute and Orchestra, by François Borne,
orchestrated by Guiot. Since the melodies and the basic
orchestration were actually by Georges Bizet, from one of the most
popular operas ever written, I almost need not say that Hazen
scored a bull’s-eye with the audience. Her playing was nimble,
strong, and crystal clear.

Since I had just heard him with the UCSB percussion ensemble
five days before, it was absolutely no surprise to me that Haig
Shirinian had won the right to solo in front of a full orchestra.
With the percussion ensemble, he demonstrated awesome command of a
wide variety of percussion instruments, but the scores were mostly
of an abstract or experimental nature. Tonight, he played the
marimba in a substantial composition — the third movement of Paul
Creston’s Concertino for Marimba and Orchestra — and his ability to
make straight music was definitively established. He is a
charismatic performer, with a good deal of stage presence, and he
is not even a senior yet.

The intense applause that greeted violist Leah Lucas as soon as
she stepped onto the stage signaled the arrival of the popular
favorite. Once she was a few bars into Ernest Bloch’s Suite for
Viola and Orchestra (Movements III and IV), it was obvious that she
possesses a major talent as well as a sunny, room-filling
personality. She negotiated the sinuous melancholy of the slow
movement and the sly jauntiness of the fast with equal aplomb. She
deserved every decibel of the wild ovation she received.

After the intermission and the annual awards ceremony, Newhouse
led the orchestra through solid and lyrical performances of
Schubert’s Unfinished Symphony and the compelling overture to
Weber’s opera Der Freischütz (The Marksman), whose horns more or
less announce the advent of Romanticism.


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