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Israeli Ensemble Makes Upbeat Return

April 28, 1998|CHRIS PASLES

With incisive and vivid playing, the Israel Camerata Jerusalem, led by founding director Avner Biron, marked its second Los Angeles appearance in a program of Haydn, Mozart, Shostakovich and Mark Kopytman on Sunday at the Luckman Theatre at Cal State Los Angeles.

Biron formed the group as the Rehovot Camerata in 1983, but substantially overhauled and renamed it in 1991 after the arrival in Israel of thousands of talented Russian emigre musicians. The new 35-member group first appeared in Los Angeles in 1997.

The group played Haydn's Symphony No. 89 and Mozart's Symphony No. 40 with lightness and elan, with unified, balanced and nuanced ensemble. Biron imposed no wayward ideas on the music, nor revealed all the beauties and profundities. But he did not get in the way, either. He took all the repeats.

Soloist in Shostakovich's First Piano Concerto was Alexander Korsantiya, first-prize winner of the 1995 Arthur Rubinstein Piano Master Competition in Tel Aviv. Making his Los Angeles debut, the Tbilisi-born pianist proved a keyboard tiger in this flashy, high-velocity music, avidly attacking and surmounting its challenges.

Korsantiya almost gets into a feeding frenzy at the piano, totally involving himself physically in the playing. He creates an evenness and plasticity of sound that seems to bypass manipulation of keys. He is a virtuoso to watch.

Kevin Cobb was the insouciant trumpet soloist.

The program also included the West Coast premiere of Kopytman's "Behind all this . . . ," commissioned in 1997 for the group's U.S. tour on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the state of Israel. Born in the USSR in 1929, Kopytman emigrated to Israel in 1972. His 16-minute, one-movement work begins and ends in icy, pure heights. In between, it traverses closely layered episodes of drama and calm that allude to events more than describe them. His command of orchestration is masterly, and the work, which has its dissonances, remained engaging.

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