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Music Reviews : L.A. Chamber Orchestra on Rebound

November 12, 1994|JOSEF WOODARD

A balloon archway and fireworks music greeted those who attended the opening concert of the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra's 26th season at the Wadsworth on Thursday. Celebration was in the air, not to mention a sense of relief, of having reeled in from the brink of disaster.

Plainly, this was no ordinary season-opener. After battling financial troubles that nearly spelled the end of the orchestra, resourceful business thinking enabled the ensemble's continuance. And it's a good thing: The LACO is a fine ensemble instrument, and a boon to the local music community. The playing this night was both fervent and exacting--the stuff of survivor's zeal.

Iona Brown, the orchestra's former artistic director and presently the "principal guest conductor," led her charges with a firm but free hand, bringing a clarity to the baroque business of Handel's Music for the Royal Fireworks and Bach's Orchestral Suite No. 3. On Bach's venerable Air, Brown refused to let the tempo or the sentiments dip into the pool of languidness that it often does in modern readings. No revisionist deep-diving here.

Similarly, Brown brought a bracing, illuminating focus to Mozart's Symphony No. 40 in G minor. Still, the orchestra allowed for the mercurial emotions contained in Mozart's late work, with its germs of romanticism. The finale was played as a blinding fury harboring a secret tenderness.

Between the baroque and Mozart sounds came a gentle breeze of 20th-Century thought from unlikely, late-blooming superstar Henryk Gorecki. Like the hugely popular Third Symphony, the Polish composer's brief, engaging "Three Pieces in the Olden Style" dances along a line between backward glancing, an affinity for folk sonorities and modern sensibilities. The powerful final movement boasts of thickly voiced, throbbing string textures yielded to sudden airy mournfulness.

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