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Seductive Stringer: Soloist Christopher Parkening showed off his instrumental specialty on Vivaldi's Guitar Concerto in D.

High Results

Guest conductor Paul Polivnick stated his case for a permanent spot with Symphony San Jose Silicon Valley

By Scott MacClelland

ALTHOUGH NO such announcement has been made, the question is inevitable: Are the four guest conductors of this season's Symphony San Jose Silicon Valley being considered as music director candidates? Look at it this way; when any urban or regional orchestra does announce a search it can expect at least 300 applications. So, the answer is yes. Announced or not, the process and the opportunity are in place.

Of the three guest conductors so far this inaugural season, Paul Polivnick got the most consistently high results. You could see it in his bearing on the podium and hear it in the orchestra last Saturday at the Center for the Performing Arts. The "old-new-borrowed-blue" theme showed off Polivnick's range and sensitivity to style. It also underscored his disciplined authority in leading the world premiere of Scenes by Jon Magnussen, a SSJSV commission and a work that packs its 15 minutes with a great complexity of ideas.

Did Polivnick's concert include taking exceptional interpretive risks? No, but that's always a tradeoff. The previous conductor, Yasuo Shinozaki, went for a bold statement in Sibelius' Symphony no. 2 and succeeded. He might not have. The chemistry of a single encounter (rehearsals and performance) is like a first date. Even if it shows you a good time, it doesn't shed much light on how a marriage might go.

Polivnick appeared to know exactly what he wanted and was adept at sculpting his performances on the fly. That would seem to be the essential job description, although any experienced orchestral musician will tell you this is exactly where many conductors falter. Polivnick did not falter. Indeed, he got the full-house audience on his side with Rossini's William Tell Overture, spurring its clichéd final fanfare to a bracing pace.

Well-known for memorizing scores, Polivnick used one for the Magnussen, a commanding piece wrapped in thick fabric, often busy at so many levels as to obscure the main thread of it. However, it also revealed moments of transparency. Its overall structure of three sections was clear, along with rising and falling thematic sequences, solos (for bassoon, vibraphone, marimba, tuba, violin and piccolo), unusual meters and exceptional craftsmanship. Ostinato was commonplace, beginning on marimbas, but avoided devolving into minimalism.

Polivnick showed his most distinctive touches in slow movements and passages, the start of the Rossini, Ravel's Pavane for a Dead Princess, the middle movement of Vivaldi's Guitar Concerto in D and sections of Mendelssohn's Symphony no. 3 (Scottish). He worked phrasing and dynamics as an organic process, drawing out remarkable elasticity and expressiveness. He led a robust and finely detailed account of the Scottish throughout, giving dignity and moment to Mendelssohn's unique balance of classical discipline, romantic melodies and dramatic exuberance.

The popular Christopher Parkening was featured as guitar soloist in the Vivaldi and found room for some tasty intra-phrase liberties in the seductive middle movement. He answered the applause with Passacaglia and Canario by Gaspar Sanz and an étude-style display piece with Anatolian flavors by Carlo Domeniconi, the Italian guitarist/composer now teaching in Istanbul.

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From the May 1-7, 2003 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

Copyright © Metro Publishing Inc. Metroactive is affiliated with the Boulevards Network.

For more information about the San Jose/Silicon Valley area, visit sanjose.com.

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