Listeners got a pleasant double dose of Baroque violin concertos Saturday evening at Santa Ana High School, administered by soloist Sidney Weiss and the Mozart Camerata conducted by Ami Porat.
Weiss, who has sat in the concertmaster's chair of the Los Angeles Philharmonic since 1979, plays with the kind of assurance and poise that makes concerto-playing seem a very natural and enjoyable undertaking. In Bach's A-minor Concerto, BWV 1041, he displayed impeccable intonation, superb control and, most importantly, a sense for where he was going. Weiss has a real ability to make his instrument sing, and his melodic lines--whether fast or slow--proved smooth and seamless. At one point the violinist rushed the tempo, causing some slight loss in ensemble tautness, but for the most part soloist and orchestra proved a first-rate team.
One might disapprove of Weiss' use of portamento , most noticeable in "Winter" from Vivaldi's "Four Seasons." But it would be hard to avoid being enchanted by his sensitive account of the lyrical slow movement, or thrilled by his virtuosity in the Finale of "Winter." However, since the auditorium is fairly live, and no shell was used, the sound tended toward the murky; to compensate, soloist and orchestra would have been wise to execute these Baroque works more crisply.
After the intermission, the orchestra played Tchaikovsky's Serenade, Opus 48. It would appear that Porat's vocabulary of podium skills is limited to rocking from side to side and beating time accurately. His baton technique displayed a monotonous sameness, and that would account for the fact that the opening theme lacked the drive it should have had. But balances were fine, rhythms secure, attacks and releases clean and the sound rich and full. In a poetic and exquisitely shaped account of the Elegia, Porat elicited remarkably sensitive, subtle playing from the ensemble.
Despite excellent solos from violin and cello, Porat's arrangement of Richard Strauss' Overture to "Capriccio," which opened the program, emerged anemic and unfocused. An encore, however--the opening movement from a Mozart divertimento--bubbled with enthusiasm.