Chamber music challenge and excitement are usually experienced on an abstract aesthetic plane. Monday evening, however, the Los Angeles Philharmonic Chamber Music Society's concert was an adventure for Indiana Jones . . . or Spike Jones.
The coincidence of another, obviously popular, event in a neighboring forum turned the normally placid environs of the University of Judaism into a traffic maelstrom of angrily honking drivers and triple-parked cars. Though the concert was delayed, a substantial troop of stragglers was still admitted after the first piece.
The plucky fans who actually made it to Gindi Auditorium were greeted by ushers with an admonition to read a program insert about changes in the agenda. Philharmonic music director and pianist for the occasion Andre Previn was afflicted with tendinitis and could not play, according to Philharmonic officials. They said singers Roberta Alexander and John Shirley-Quirk could not rehearse adequately with another pianist.
So half the program, nine of Mahler's "Des Knaben Wunderhorn" songs, was scratched. In lieu of celebrity Mahler, the Philharmonic offered Franklyn D'Antonio playing Richard Strauss's Violin Sonata and Lorin Levee playing Weber's Grand Duo Concertante for clarinet and piano, both accompanied by Zita Carno.
D'Antonio and Carno have reportedly played the Strauss sonata together recently, and it showed in a technically dazzling, emotionally somewhat aloof reading. Levee and Carno trusted to limited rehearsal and individual brilliance, a trust not misplaced in Weber's compendium of bravura cliches.
The revised program left Mendelssohn's Second String Quintet very much the center of interest. Violinists Elizabeth Baker and Mitchell Newman, violists Evan Wilson and Heiichiro Ohyama and cellist Gloria Lum responded with a big, exciting--though not always for the right reasons--fiercely serious performance. Things got a little too competitive in the fugal finale and tone was not always suave, but balances and articulation remained secure and uniform, at blistering tempos.