A classical music blog by music critic Tim Mangan
Review: Pacific Symphony launches St.Clair’s 25th season. Orange County Register, Sept. 27, 2014.
classical music, reviews
Carl St.Clair, Joshua Bell, Pacific Symphony
September 27, 2014
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Congratulations to the maestro, and to the critic, from a voice from the past.
Thanks. You reminded me: I reviewed St.Clair’s first concert with the Pacific Symphony, his tryout for the music director position, for the Los Angeles Times. I had a great boss at the time.
Would be fun to read that first review. Is it online anywhere?
Here’s what I found, Chris:
MUSIC REVIEW : St. Clair Has Compelling Evening With Symphony
February 02, 1990|TIMOTHY MANGAN
COSTA MESA — It was time again for another tryout Wednesday at Segerstrom Hall, and conductor Carl St. Clair made the most of the opportunity. As the latest candidate for the Pacific Symphony’s music director position, St. Clair, an assistant conductor for the Boston Symphony, was a compelling presence.
The first half of the concert, however, belonged largely to soprano Benita Valente, a late replacement for the scheduled Jill Gomez who had unexpected problems obtaining a visa. In three of Mahler’s “Rukert-Lieder,” Valente sang with intimate expressiveness and serene, gracefully woven phrasing. She moved on to Mozart’s “Exsultate, jubilate,” in a genuinely felt, joyous reading. Though her singing was not without minor lapses–a rough skip or two, some labored 16th-notes–her voice rang out with rich elegance and exuberance.
St. Clair accompanied with utmost attentiveness, with malleable phrasing and clear textures in the Mahler, and a gentlemanly neatness in the Mozart.
He had started the concert with a vigorous, scampering run-through of Mozart’s “Le Nozze di Figaro” Overture. He concluded with Tchaikovsky’s “Pathetique” Symphony. In the opening movement he brought huge contrasts to bear, with flexible, ever-expressive phrasing and bold tempo changes.
Despite this moment-by-moment emotionalism, St. Clair never lost sight of the overall musical argument, clearly shaping the first movement to a single conclusion, and the symphony as a whole into a single entity.
Thus the two middle movements were relatively straightforward–a restrained, steady Allegro con grazia, a muscular, brassy march. He renewed the melodrama with the finale, giving full sway to its melancholy, while still pacing the movement towards its more despairing conclusion.
The members of the Pacific Symphony proved highly responsive partners, playing with apparent energy and feeling, and a general tidiness of execution.
When talking about Carl St.Clair’s life, the words “good luck” are hard for me to swallow.
I was talking of his career, not life.
Of course you were, which is why i did not say “impossible”, but i did say “hard” because career is a part of life.
Enjoyed the old review. Thanks for digging it up. Seems like many of his musical strengths were clearly on display back then.
Thanks for the review, and good for Mr. St.Clair. I just noticed the PSO’s website finally mentions Keith Clark’s tenure as Music Director, albeit briefly. For most of the website’s existence, he was notably absent from the the orchestra’s history, as if they were ashamed of him and didn’t want to acknowledge he (or anybody) was MD prior to St.Clair.
I should add this quote from Mr. Bernheimer from his 1989 Beckmesser Awards in the Los Angeles Times:
“Non-person of the year: Keith Clark, who for better or worse founded and nurtured the Pacific Symphony only to lose an acrimonious power battle with a revisionist management that removed his name from all official literature.”
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