In addition to the longstanding financial woes plaguing the Los Angeles Mozart Orchestra, the ensemble was beset by artistic troubles Sunday at Japan America Theatre.
The chief musical problem lies in the current state of the orchestra itself. Since 17 of the 21 members are string players, the ensemble stands or falls by the quality of string tone it produces. Unfortunately, on Sunday the strings lacked warmth, richness, eloquence, sparkle and even precision in pitch, and to that extent undermined a program of mostly unfamiliar works by Mozart, Handel and Haydn.
But also woeful were harsh, cold, intruding contributions from the two horn players, who sounded as if they were performing on natural, not valve, instruments.
Conductor/artistic director David Keith opened with a graceless, plodding and doubtless under-rehearsed account of Mozart's Symphony No. 16, though he managed to make some early passages sound buoyant and airy.