OVERNIGHT REVIEW: The Colburn Orchestra opens season at Ambassador Auditorium

By Robert D. Thomas

Music Critic

Pasadena Star-News/San Gabriel Valley Tribune/Whittier Daily
News

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The Colburn
Orchestra; Yehuda Gilad, conductor; Francisca da Pasquale, violin

Berlioz: Roman
Carnival Overture,
Dvorak: Violin Concerto

Mussorgsky/Ravel: Pictures
at an Exhibition

Saturday, Sept. 24, 2011 Ambassador Auditorium

Next concert: Oct. 22

Information: www.colburnschool.edu

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Although experience and maturity count for much in the
classical music world, there’s also something to be said for youthful
exuberance, especially when its married to the kind of exceptional talent that
permeates the student body at The Colburn School in downtown Los Angeles.

 

Colburn is the west coast equivalent of The Juilliard School
in New York City or the Curtis Institute in Philadelphia, and the school’s
flagship ensemble, The Colburn Orchestra, opened its 2011-2012 season last
night in impressive fashion before a full house at Ambassador Auditorium.
Although approximately 30 percent of the orchestra turns over annually and
school has been in session only a few weeks, Music Director Yehuda Gilad had
his young charges playing with precision, power and musicality throughout the
program.

 

Gilad and Co. opened with a performance of Berlioz’s Roman Carnival Overture that was
sumptuous and spirited, depending on the composer’s wishes. As they did all
evening, the string sections produced deep, sonorous tones in the welcoming
Ambassador Auditorium acoustic and English horn principal John Winstead got
things rolling with his plaintive solo lines.

 

Choosing Ravel’s orchestration of Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition is a good way
to show off any orchestra’s virtuosity and The Colburn Orchestra has that in
abundance. Gilad led a sensitive, highly individual performance of this
familiar work, emphasizing silences effectively and letting his principals and
sections shine. That list includes Trumpeter Joseph Brown, Tubist Spencer
Brown, the entire brass section and the full woodwind contingent.

 

Gilad had some distinctive ideas with regard to tempos. Bydlo (the oxcart) was something of a turbocharged
vehicle and Baba Yaga (The Hut on Fowl’s
Legs)
also raced forward, but the latter led to a majestic rendition of The Great Gate of Kiev that concluded
the evening gloriously.

 

Prior to intermission, 20-year-old Francesca dePasquale, a
senior in the Bachelor of Music program at The Colburn Conservatory, delivered
a polished reading of Dvorak’s Violin Concerto. DePasquale (a student of Robert
Lipsett at Colburn) displayed a silvery tone and impressive technique
throughout the performance, although her tone turned edgy occasionally in the
final movement. She played the middle-movement theme with great sweetness and
danced her way impressively through the final movement’s lighter moments. She
also smiled more during the final movement dispelling the mood of her grimaces
in the previous movements. The winner of last year’s Irving M. Klein String
Competition in San Francisco, dePasquale (who is serving this year as one of
the orchestra’s concertmasters) is clearly a talent to watch in the future.

 

Gilad and the orchestra offered sympathetic accompaniment to
dePasquale, and the audience — which obviously included fellow students, parents
and other Colburn supporters — responded exuberantly, as it did for all three
pieces.

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Hemidemisemiquavers:

One of the finer advantages of attending Colburn Orchestra
concerts are the comprehensive and erudite music notes written by Colburn
students — in this case, violist Matthew Cohen, violinist and pianist Bora Kim,
and oboist Titus Underwood, all of whom played in the orchestra.

DePasquale clearly comes from a musical family; among the
people she lists in her bio as mentors are four people with the last name of
dePasquale.

Given that the 1,400 free tickets for last night’s concert
were distributed a week before the concert, you might want to sign up now to
make sure you don’t get shut out for the Oct. 22 concert. Click HERE for
details.

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the
birth of Richard D. Colburn, the school’s founder and namesake.

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(c) Copyright 2011, Robert D. Thomas. All rights reserved.
Portions may be quoted with attribution.