Well, the British have come, not by land or by sea, but by proxy through the back door. The opening concert of the UK/LA Festival, Friday at the Wiltern Theatre, featured the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, a Polish conductor, an American guitarist . . . and one short piece by Elgar.
In its musical component, at least, the UK/LA Festival seems little more than a logo. The Chamber Orchestra has given concerts like this before and doubtless will offer again, with or without any tenuous British connection.
For the record, though, the program did begin--after a delay while new lights were affixed to each stand onstage--with Elgar's Elegy, a modest essay in subdued sentiment and lush string writing.
With that out of the way, in a tender, understated performance, guest Jerzy Maksymiuk--former director of the Polish Chamber Orchestra and now principal conductor of the BBC Scottish Symphony--turned his quirky attention to other matters. If Maksymiuk's program showed any clear British influence, it was that of Monty "Now, for something completely different" Python.
"Syrmos" by Xenakis is another piece for strings--minus the violas--but there any similarity to the Elegy ends. It slips and slides, plips and plops about, with the emphasis all on texture and proportion.
Maksymiuk approached it with obvious enthusiasm, while his somewhat thin-sounding band showed more diligence than delight in the effort.
The next programmatic volte-face led to Vivaldi's oft-played Concerto in D, in an edition for guitar and strings. There Maksymiuk proved a supportive accompanist, enforcing bright, crisp playing.
Christopher Parkening handled the solo part with assurance and clarity. He offered little embellishment on the repeats and introduced a variety of Romantic dynamic shadings within phrases, but in mainstream concert terms produced a vigorous, attractive reading.
After intermission, Parkening returned in the more substantial duties of Rodrigo's "Concierto de Aranjuez." These he dispatched with technical insouciance, great rhythmic zest and clarity and expressive variety.
Maksymiuk kept the accompaniment articulate and balanced, in a blissfully sweeping performance of this unobtrusively difficult concerto.
Prokofiev's "Classical" Symphony capped the agenda. Maksymiuk favored quick tempos, exaggerated articulation and dry sound. The Chamber Orchestra gave him all he asked for, some wayward moments in the violins excepted, in a blithe, viably lightweight account.