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Music Reviews : Duerr Opens Pasadena Season

October 23, 1985|DANIEL CARIAGA | Times Music Writer

With so many musical anniversaries occurring this year, giving them all their due can be problematic.

Robert Duerr, founder and conductor of the Pasadena Chamber Orchestra, solved the problem neatly at the opening concert in a new season by his ensemble at Ambassador Auditorium on Monday night. He constructed a sampler of music by five composers whose anniversaries fall in this year.

In this sampler, Duerr led short pieces by Heinrich Schuetz (born 1585) and Alban Berg (born 1885) as well as works by the three most famous musicians born in 1685: Bach, Handel and Domenico Scarlatti.

The novelty here was Scarlatti's Serenata, "Contessa delle Stagioni" (The Contest of Seasons), which the composer produced in 1720, during the second year of his Portuguese sojourn. It is a joyful work, but not a startling one; it uses chorus, orchestra and four high-voiced soloists skillfully but without extraordinary inspiration.

Duerr, working with his well-rehearsed instrumental ensemble and the accomplished, 24-voice Pasadena Chamber Orchestra Chorus, produced handsome sounds and a stylish reading, which never lagged. The confident solo quartet comprised the voices of sopranos Janice McVeigh, Diane Thomas, countertenor Kristor Lawson and tenor Robert Tate. Thomas and Tate, in particular, brought expressive fervor to their duties.

With exceptional clarity and purity of tone, the chorus sang splendidly in Schuetz's "Jauchzet dem Herrn, alle Welt," and in Bach's "Lobet den Herrn, alle Heiden." Alone, the orchestra shone in Handel's Concerto Grosso in G, Opus 3, No. 3 (in which the commanding soloists were flutist Gary Woodward and violinist Mayumi Ohira); three pieces from Berg's "Lyric Suite," found the ensemble on shakier ground.

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