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MUSIC REVIEW

Louis XIV would have approved

San Francisco's Philharmonia Baroque offers a program fit for a king in Cerritos.

March 25, 2004|Daniel Cariaga | Special to The Times

The pageantry, the formality and the great good humor of French music at mid-Baroque -- in works by Michel-Richard de Lalande, Jean-Marie Leclair and Jean-Fery Rebel -- were exuberantly displayed at the Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts on Tuesday night. The Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra of San Francisco was led by French Canadian conductor Bernard Labadie in a program of music created for the court of Louis XIV, the Sun King.

The playing was immaculate, crisp but relaxed, clean and fluent, alive to nuance but never precious, characteristically incisive, as one has come to expect from America's premier Baroque ensemble, numbering this time between 19 and 26.

Three suites by Lalande occupied the first half of the concert, offering an object lesson in varied musical textures, mood changes and dynamic breadth. The closing work, Rebel's final ballet suite, "Les Elemens," showed off the entire instrumental consort at its most virtuosic, especially the crackerjack wind contingent. Technically, there were no weak links, and the performances held the small but rapt audience in thrall -- nobody coughed.

Only one miscalculation in the program gave the evening greater length than it needed. That was Leclair's resourceful but ordinary -- for the usually inventive composer -- Violin Concerto in B-flat, Opus 10, No. 1, played neatly but with low energy by soloist Katherine Kymes, a member of the orchestra.

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