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Music Review : 'Seasons' Closing L.A. Philharmonic Season

May 28, 1994|DANIEL CARIAGA | TIMES MUSIC WRITER

Closing its 30th concert year in the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion--not to mention its 75th anniversary season--the Los Angeles Philharmonic brings, for the first time in its history, a complete performance of Haydn's "The Seasons" to its subscription audiences this week.

In a new English version specially commissioned by the L.A. Philharmonic Assn. for these performances, the work, heard for the first time Thursday night, had the benefit of Roger Norrington's impassioned and exigent leadership to guide this large-scale undertaking smoothly through the complex shoals of continuity.

The scholarly but vigorous English conductor did so in splendid manner, concluding the Thursday night concert series with an uplifting brilliance. The orchestra--with assistant concertmaster Mark Baranov acting as leader--seemed to give Norrington whatever he asked: strong but unexaggerated contrasts, first-rate soloism, tight balances and even textures.

The players of the reduced ensemble were seconded by 47 members of Los Angeles Master Chorale singing their strenuous assignments with sublime ease. The Master Chorale has seldom sounded at once so mellow and incisive.

Norrington applied his affectionate probing of this colorful score with equal energy throughout, letting its valleys speak as articulately as its peaks. This was not a performance during which one was tempted to watch the clock.

At least part of the reason for that was the excellence of the three vocal soloists. English-trained but Canadian-born Kevin McMillan commands a smallish but clear and attractive baritone, delivers words with crystalline understandability and sings with ardor.

Amanda Halgrimson's solid if undistinctive soprano--it actually blooms charmingly above the staff--and unfettered musical delivery made all of her contributions cherishable. Tenor John Aler, though weak in power in his lowest register, brought clear and pretty singing and a sense of secure musicality to all his assignments.

Otherwise, the heroes of this evening, after Norrington, were the Philharmonic's brass, who splashed the walls as well as the atmosphere in the Pavilion with aural gold.

* L. A. Philharmonic and L.A. Master Chorale, Roger Norrington conducting, play Haydn's "The Seasons" in the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion of the Music Center, today at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2:30 p.m. Tickets $6-$50.

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