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Music and Dance Reviews : L.A. Chamber Orchestra Plays Clarinet Concerto

November 16, 1987|DANIEL CARIAGA

An extraordinary, poignant performance of Mozart's Clarinet Concerto made the centerpiece of the latest Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra concert at Ambassador Auditorium, Saturday night.

The exemplary David Shifrin, principal clarinet of this ensemble since 1978, and this season commuting from New York in that role, was the soloist, bringing his aristocratic musicality, even and expressive tone and tasteful imagination to the Mozartean heights of this late work, which he played on an historical reconstruction of a basset clarinet. Besides Shifrin's colleagues in the orchestra, his collaborator was that indefatigable chamber-orchestra veteran, the 79-year-old Alexander Schneider, who assisted lovingly.

This touching performance was achieved--without resort to tricks of gimmickry, sentimentality or hype--through the purest musical means: a communicated sense of line and continuity and myriad details of coloration, contrast and nuance.

Of course the central Adagio became the focal point of this poetical but clear-eyed reading; that is the emotional heart of the work. And, at the moment of recapitulation in that movement, magical things happened between stage and audience, as they already had between soloist and orchestra.

Schneider, an ebullient, vigorous and obviously likable leader, provided exuberant orchestral performances to surround the concerto.

He ended the program with a nicely detailed, not always transparent account of Haydn's Symphony No. 93, one in which he found much humor, but might have discovered more contrasts. The woodwind solos, as seems always the case in this orchestra, sang out irrepressibly.

Villa-Lobos justly neglected Sinfonietta No. 1, the opener, proved highly pleasant, historically interesting--it was written in 1916--and appropriate as a nod to the composer's centennial. But it seems a weak piece, overwritten, overextended and only modestly inspired. A more restrained reading might have unearthed additional charms in this score, but that is doubtful.

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