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MUSIC REVIEWS : Conductor Yoav Talmi With Chamber Ensemble

December 12, 1987|JOHN HENKEN

In some ways, it seemed like old times with the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra Thursday evening at the Wiltern Theatre. Yoav Talmi was making his first appearance with the band, but the program he led reminded at least one listener of the Gerard Schwarz era.

Not the manner in which he led it, however. Talmi, music director of the Israel Chamber Orchestra, is a conductor of individual profile and musical distinction.

Working from memory and without a baton, he elicited a suave, largely understated reading of Beethoven's Second Symphony from the Chamber Orchestra. The sound was mellow, yet clear in detail, with only a few blurred wind attacks to disturb the smooth ensemble finish.

The results rang true, except in the Larghetto, which seemed to plod from phrase to phrase without encompassing purposes. Otherwise, Talmi shaped the music of the moment to meet larger goals and allowed the Haydnesque character of the work to emerge without exaggeration.

The soloist for the evening was cellist Ralph Kirshbaum, and his vehicle the Schumann Concerto. He played with concentrated energy and accuracy, though with a pinched tone at times, and he brought character and motivation to the often rambling discourse.

Like most cellists, he seemed at a loss in the opening of the Finale, rendering it simply as a series of heavy accents and briskly gruff scales. Kirshbaum found his purposeful way again, however, in the pseudo-Baroque cadenza.

The orchestra's pizzicato entrances at the end of the beautifully hushed cadenza could have had more definition. But Talmi--using baton and scores in the first half of the program--kept the desultory accompaniment generally alert and supportively balanced.

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