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TELEVISION REVIEW : 'Foray' Tunes Into Music, Sites

January 29, 1994|CHRIS PASLES | TIMES STAFF WRITER

How to sustain visual interest in televising a musical event remains a challenging and unsolved problem. Teresa A. Merloni, producer of "A Musical Foray" (at 3 p.m. today on KOCE Channel 50), tackles the issue through an enhanced music-in-attractive-sites approach.

For performances of works by Mozart, Haydn and Bach, she places the musicians in, respectively, the Marion Davies House (reportedly built for her by William Randolph Hearst), the Pilgrim Lutheran Church and the Heritage Museum, all in the greater Los Angeles area.

The players wear stylish outfits evoking the 1920s and '30s, presumably because the locations were built or are otherwise connected to these periods, although none of the music is.

Some of the costumes are charming, but poor pianist Eric Kinsley, in suspenders, slacks and open-neck shirt, looks rather like a janitor who wandered into the church and sat at the instrument.

The camera discreetly floats--sometimes swimmingly--between the serious-faced musicians and the locales. But the emphasis remains on the music. There are few technological tricks.

Most of the local players look fairly fresh out of the conservatory, and their interpretations tend to be youth-driven, secure, competent, but also cautious and lacking in expressive character.

Oboist Kathleen Light, clarinetist Kathryn Nevin and bassoonist Angela Anderson play Mozart's Divertimento in B-flat, K. 439b, with perky charm but limited variety in character.

*

Kinsley, probably the most familiar name among the players, plays Haydn's Sonata in C minor, H.XVI:20, with fluency, but he treats the music as purely abstract. There is surface clarity but no inner tension or drama.

He returns as harpsichordist to join flutists Robert Shulgold and Tsutomu Carton and cellist Joo Won Kim in Bach's Trio Sonata in G, BWV 1039, played with tight ensemble and avoidance of affect.

Some nits: Most close-ups of the scores do not show what is being played at that moment, which is distracting. The light filtering through the stained-glass windows of the church creates a strange fog around the piano and the player. Still, this is Merloni's first effort at such a presentation, and overall the results are positive.

* "A Musical Foray," featuring performances of chamber music of Bach, Haydn and Mozart, airs at 3 p.m. today on KOCE Channel 50.

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