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Music Reviews : Mozart Camerata in Santa Ana

January 12, 1988|CHRIS PASLES

Ami Porat and the Mozart Camerata offered the ensemble's annual namesake birthday program Saturday at Santa Ana High School, and the results were mixed.

The biggest disappointment came in the Concerto No. 20 in D minor, as pianist Jerome Lowenthal offered a distant, businesslike interpretation. Lowenthal put off introspection, poetry and variety in shading, color and dynamics until the final movement, and ventured the first two with steely, cool, driven, fluent force.

This was muscular, surface Mozart, without vulnerability, warmth or lyricism, and the later shift in approach seemed incongruous and unconvincing.

Porat accompanied precisely and attentively, matching the soloist's penchant for quick tempos and concise, cutting phrases and rhythms. Matching, that is, until a moment in the last movement when Lowenthal suddenly went his own virtuoso way and left the orchestra hanging in mid-phrase.

Lowenthal began a rhapsodic, impromptu cadenza while the musicians looked momentarily nonplussed. Soon, however, the pianist segued into more familiar territory and everyone came back together again.

After the concert, Porat answered the question of what had happened at that point by saying that Lowenthal had "skipped over a very short passage" and gone directly into the cadenza, "improvising the first part" and finishing with the standard passages.

"But we were absolutely together," the conductor said.

That was not, however, the impression at the time.

Porat also led a clean, direct, unmannered interpretation of the Symphony No. 39 in E-flat, taking the repeats in the outer movements. And if he did not offer any special insights, neither did he distort the score. The high points may have been the substantial, airy and spacious opening and the virile, spirited last movement.

Throughout, the 35-member Camerata played with disciplined unanimity and polish.

Porat opened the program with a crisp, propelled, bright account of the Overture to "Le Nozze di Figaro."

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