In the middle of a two-week, 10-concert U.S. visit, Camerata Ireland showed a few signs of tour fatigue at its appearance at the Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts on Friday night. Among other things: Both the concertmaster and the principal cellist dropped their bows during the performance.
Led by its youngish founder, pianist Barry Douglas, the 37-member chamber orchestra closed its program with a spirited but unremarkable performance of Beethoven's Seventh Symphony. A capable conductor, Douglas brought nothing new or compelling to the ubiquitous work. And the ensemble's playing -- clean and haphazard by turns -- remained undistinctive.
The rest of the evening, occupied a higher level of polish, especially at the very beginning and at the end, with two lovely encores.
The orchestra's strings excelled in two programmed lyric essays, a Nocturne (1970) by the Irish composer John Kinsella, and Elliott Carter's 1943 Elegy; lushness, articulation and seamless legato characterized these short mood pieces.
The encores were the Waltz from Tchaikovsky's Serenade for Strings, and "Danny Boy."
The centerpiece and high point of this evening, however, was Douglas' masterly performance of Beethoven's Fourth Piano Concerto, to which the ensemble contributed strongly. The work's delicate balance between violence and gentleness was maintained throughout, the soloist bringing intensity, spontaneity and thoughtfulness to every familiar utterance. Unobtrusively, concertmaster Michael D'Arcy cued those many connecting points that can be a problem when the conductor is also the soloist.
Douglas and the orchestra have recorded the G-major Concerto on a CD with the Second, and are planning another, to include the other three Beethoven concertos.
Watch for it.