If the Mozart Camerata were blessed with a much-needed acoustical shell for its sound, a more glamorous image for its conductor and a setting in a more fashionable neighborhood for its audience, Ami Porat's Classical-size ensemble--currently operating with about three dozen members--could be the upscale chamber orchestra of Orange County.
At the opening of its 1988-89 season, Saturday night in the auditorium at Santa Ana High School, the group displayed all the ingredients: an accomplished roster of first-rate players; a sense of community, ensemble and single-mindedness in the currently constituted orchestra, a bold and clever conductor.
Moreover, before a note was played, one had to admire the braininess of Porat's program, works by four 18th-Century contemporaries who on one occasion played quartets together: Dittersdorf, Mozart, Wanhal and Haydn.
More important, the agenda worked as a sound experience. A charming, almost bucolic Allegro for strings by Dittersdorf, despite its sharp-key setting, set up the more familiar aggressions in Mozart's Sinfonia Concertante in E-flat for violin and viola. After intermission, Wanhal's breezy Sinfonia in A minor introduced Hadyn's deceptively easygoing 44th Symphony of Haydn.
In a set of stylish, admirably straightforward performances, Porat led this program with the seriousness and buoyancy its substance demands.
Because of the apparent lack of a workable acoustical shell, not all of the strengths of the orchestra emerged in balance on the audience side of the proscenium, or with interior lines clearly projected. What did come across was the virtuosity of the players and the pleasure they clearly take in making music so effortlessly.
Kathleen Lenski and Brian Denbow--he is the Camerata's official concertmaster, yet one who seems to be increasingly spending time playing viola--were the vigorous, felicitously paired and aggressive soloists in a fresh and rethought reading of the Mozart work.