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| Music Review

Orchestra Impresses, Even Without Mozart

March 21, 2000|SUSAN BLISS | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Judging by the agenda, there was no direct relationship either to Mozart or to his time period in the Mozart Classical Orchestra concert Sunday. But, if clarity of line and conception define classical, the tenets were admirably upheld by the Laguna Hills-based chamber orchestra, performing at St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church of Newport Beach.

The afternoon program, entirely for string orchestra, opened with Bartok's Romanian Folk Dances and closed with Grieg's "Aus Holbergs Zeit" ("Holberg Suite").

The single Mozartean contemporary was Franz Joseph Haydn, who was represented by his Violin Concerto No. 1, in C. Written about 1765, during his early years directing the orchestra of Prince Esterhazy, the work was originally intended as a showcase for the concertmaster Luigi Tomasini.

On Sunday, under music director Ami Porat, it was handsomely championed by principal second violinist Thi Nguyen, who brought a bright-toned, intelligent and confident interpretation.

Discerning readings of other works for string orchestra, from the 19th and 20th centuries, underscored the discipline of this band. Based on 18th century dance forms, as a salute to Danish writer Ludvig Holberg(1684-1754), "Aus Holbergs Zeit" enjoyed an energetic, graceful performance, particularly in the fourth-movement Air, which soared to decisive and poignant climaxes.

Porat's transcription of the Adagio Cantabile, from "Souvenir de Florence," turned Tchaikovsky's string sextet into a weightier score that received a lush, purposeful unfolding graced by well-turned solos from principal players--concertmaster Andre Gronnier, violist Thomas Diener and cellist Vage Ayrikian. Soulful passages offered by Gronnier also enlivened Bartok's Romanian Folk Dances, which were attended to with flavorful dynamics and meaty accentuation.

As encore, the Allegro di molto, from Mozart's Divertimento in B-flat, K. 137, provided a lighthearted and animated send-off.

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