October 30, 1987|HERBERT GLASS

On Wednesday, at Ambassador Auditorium, Iona Brown and the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra presented a mixed bill whose first half was devoted to works by child composers: the 8-year-old Mozart's First Symphony, K. 16, and the more mature--aged 14--Mendelssohn's String Symphony No. 9.

The Mozart is unenlightening, with nothing of the harbinger about it. But there is a whiff of important things ahead in Mendelssohn's suave exercise--in the catchy, if underdeveloped, melodic ideas of the opening movement and a peppery finale (Mendelssohn was always good at finales) that gives the impression of having been created specifically to inspire applause.

Both pieces were given clean-limbed, briskly paced readings by Brown, directing from the concertmaster's chair.

The remainder of the program was given over to more substantial fare. First, the A-minor Violin Concerto of J. S. Bach, with Brown herself as the commanding soloist, mediating convincingly between the sec , detached-note manner of the period specialists and the vibrato-legato style of the Romantically oriented violinist.

Bach was followed by Joseph Haydn, his Symphony No. 22 in E flat, "The Philosopher"--so called for the long, pensively ambling slow movement with which it opens.

The Haydn is a cleverly quirky affair, full of Baroque touches, whose appealingly odd scoring is distinguished by the dark, rather dolorous tones of a pair of English horns.

Haydn's symphony is typical of the important small-orchestra music from the 18th Century otherwise unavailable locally in first-rate performances: the sort of thing the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra all too seldom gave us during Gerard Schwarz's tenure as music director.

And with the Haydn--the mere fact of its presentation, as well as the liveliness and skill with which it was set forth--we were reminded of the LACO as it was in the beginning, under Neville Marriner, when big ideas and small orchestra were not mutually exclusive notions.

The old days were recalled as well in the spanking tempos Brown took for the symphony's two presto movements--tempos that courted ensemble breakdown.

Today, even more so than then, the LACO players were not only able to keep together but to deliver ensemble tone that remained firm and focused.

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