The ambitious concert at Gindi Auditorium was very much a Los Angeles kind of event: music by Vienna-born and/or reared, Jewish composers who fled Hitler-era Europe to work in, and/or be neglected by, the City of the Angels.
The lamentably small audience Thursday was first treated to a collection of steamy, Romantic-twilight songs by Korngold, among them the Richard Strauss-like--and as good as his best--"Schneeglockchen," and a Schoenberg set that included the gloriously decadent "Erwartung."
Their presentation by soprano Margaret Morrison, whose powerful, firmly focused tones, unerring pitch and crystalline enunciation were revelatory, and pianist Leonard Stein, the old master of the idiom, was on the loftiest level. Likewise, pianist Delores Stevens proved a surpassingly persuasive advocate of Toch's potent 1928 Sonata.
The second half of the longish evening opened with Schoenberg's 1938 "Kol Nidre": the first performance of Leonard Stein's arrangement, in which the complex orchestration has been reduced to a comparably harrowing, but decidedly less dense, organ part.
The performance, clearly a labor of love for all concerned, enlisted the services of Cantor William Sharlin, speaking the Yom Kippur-related text with simple dignity; Nick Strimple's Southern California Choral Society, singing with both touching sweetness and climactic heft, and Mark Robson, skillfully projecting Stein's orchestra-into-keyboard conjuration.
Schoenberg's stunner would have provided a fitting, satisfying conclusion, but listener burnout was subsequently courted (and achieved) with the glum, slow-moving modalities of Erich Zeisl's 1945 "Requiem Ebraico".