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Music Review

Chamber Orchestra Delivers Bonuses

January 28, 2002|DANIEL CARIAGA | TIMES MUSIC WRITER

Brilliant solos and felicitous programming came together during the first Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra performance of 2002, Friday night in UCLA's Royce Hall.

Pianist Robert Levin was the guest, joined in the spotlight by music director Jeffrey Kahane for the most famous of Mozart's concertos for two pianos.

There were other bonuses as well, including trumpeters David Washburn and Darren Mulder, featured in Vivaldi's Concerto in C for two trumpets.

And Levin, at mid-program, offered a sonata-like, one-movement improvisation on themes submitted by members of the audience, the results of which were clever and entertaining. Levin also played Mozart's C-minor Piano Concerto, K. 491.

With Kahane conducting, the orchestra played spiritedly and with its usual panache, assisting the soloists comfortably. By itself, the ensemble offered Peteris Vasks' Cantabile for Strings, a piece postponed from the opening concert of this season. The Latvian composer's seven-minute essay (1979), a mix of complementary contemporary styles, fit neatly into this program.

Bright pianism was the focus of this performance, however. It concluded with the double concerto, which became a happy event but not a relaxed one. Brilliant pianists both, Kahane and Levin do not mesh as a team. They seem to work from opposite sides of the brain--one is a poet, the other a smarty-pants--and the result does not add up to a charming whole. One admired the efficiency of the performance without being touched by it.

Levin's playing of K. 491 also lacked integration of Mozart's dark and light sides, both of which inform this masterpiece. The total became undramatic and shallow.

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