The simple four-note theme that starts the movement unfolds with such grace and inevitability, by the end of the work the listener is hardly aware of what has happened: That tiny four-note seed of a motive has given birth to an entire universe of ideas.
Musicians from the Concerto Soloists Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia, who played the work last night at the Walnut Street Theater, must be among those admirers, even if their leader, conductor Marc Mostovoy, seemed too busy with his head in the score to let on how he felt about things.
His lack of eye contact with the players resulted in a performance that
rarely even managed competence, much less an interpretation with character and insight. When the orchestra seemed to take matters into its own hands at a crucial point near the end, Mostovoy responded by stabbing the air to show what everyone least needed to know by then - how to play those same four notes.
A similar approach was taken for the premiere of the Passacaglia and Fugue for String Orchestra (1990) by Philadelphia composer Harold Boatrite. Exclusive of an American-spirited theme played on solo violin that opens the work, the passacaglia section consists of a continuous wash of sound with few distinguishing features. It makes for a sleepy few minutes. The fugue started promisingly with a pizzicato double bass solo, but again, there was little pay-off in the way of dramatic constrast.
Dag Wiren's Serenade for Strings and Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach's Symphony No. 2 in B Flat Major, which made up the rest of the program, are of the genre of works now popular with programmers of top-40 classical radio stations: They
put up no fight when played as background music, as they often are in stores, restaurants and offices. They are not totally without interest, but it seemed wasteful for them to take up valuable space and time during a live concert in a city desperately in need of more imaginative programming.