It has become clear this season that Gindi Auditorium at the University of Judaism is no longer a secret. The house was nearly full last week for a "Music for Mischa" concert, and Monday evening the Los Angeles Philharmonic Chamber Music Society even set up chairs on stage for its first concert of the season.
Though consisting of only three works, the affair was a leisurely one, with an emphasis on lyricism. And as is common on these programs, a hitherto unheralded hero emerged from the Philharmonic ranks.
David Howard plays bass clarinet with the orchestra--not a position to which much celebrity accrues. Monday he took up the standard instrument and blew the sweet dickens out of Hindemith's Clarinet Sonata.
Howard plays in a nervously hunched pose, contracted into an almost fetal curl on the edge of his seat. His tone, however, is free and pure, a limpid wonder that filled the room without a hint of abrasive squawk.
He also plays neatly and nimbly in ensemble, impeccably in tune, and is musically sensitive. Pianist Zita Carno, herself a Hindemith champion of some note, provided pertinent, poised accompaniment.
After intermission Howard joined six Philharmonic colleagues in a bright, generally light, reading of Beethoven's Septet, Opus 20. There was some muddy ensemble in the opening Adagio, but the players quickly adapted.
Their efforts never quite came together, however, in a memorably major performance of the popular work. There was fine individual playing from all, though: Barry Socher, violin; D.A. Hikawa, viola; Daniel Rothmuller, cello; Christopher Hanulik, bass; Patricia Kindel, bassoon; Brian Drake, horn; and Howard.
The program opened with Two Rhapsodies (1901) by Charles Martin Loeffler. Revisions of two songs by the composer, the Rhapsodies rely on a kind of Impressionistic folkiness and sure, idiomatic scoring.
Oboist Barbara Winters had some mechanical trouble with her instrument in the first rhapsody, resulting in unusually burbling sounds. She surmounted the problem, however, with musicality, joining Hikawa and Carno in an appropriately effusive, balanced account.