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Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra Visits the Bach Family

February 12, 1996|HERBERT GLASS

While the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra remains financially troubled and without a permanent home, it also remains one the area's precious musical resources. That fact reasserted itself within the first measures of the orchestra's concert on Saturday in the Alex Theatre in Glendale, devoted to works of the Bach family, Johann Sebastian and his sons Johann Christian and Carl Philipp Emanuel.

Helmuth Rilling led his charges with grace and vigor through a featherweight suite from J.C.'s opera "Amadis des Gaules," showcasing a superbly accomplished wind section that has remained fit and loyal throughout the orchestra's occasional ups and frequent downs of recent seasons.

C.P.E's Concerto in E flat, Wq. 47, that quirky composer's exercise in contrast, between the traditional harpsichord and the newfangled piano, fulfilled its didactic function and entertained through the expert ministrations of Patricia Mabee on the pingy harpsichord and James Bonn on the dulcet fortepiano.

There were problems, however, in the Concerto in C minor for Two Harpsichords, BWV 1060, by Johann Sebastian. While the notion of playing the work not on identical instruments but on harpsichord and fortepiano may have been historically suspect, what rankled more was the oversized string ensemble employed by Rilling in his inappropriately cushy accompaniment to the angular solo work.

The program concluded, however, with ringing affirmation of the truism that Father Bach knows best, with a radiant performance of his motet "Singet dem Herrn", sung with joyous intensity by the USC Chamber Singers under Rilling's practiced, loving hand.

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