Review: The Da Camera Players, a new incarnation, resounds

May 09, 2012|By Richard S. Ginell
  • The Da Camera Players at their inaugural concert, from left: photo: violinists Ida Levin and Margaret Batjer; violists Carrie Dennis and Nokuthula Ngwenyama; violinists Tien Hsin Cindy Wu and Nathan Cole; cellists Peter Stumpf and Ronald Leonard.
The Da Camera Players at their inaugural concert, from left: photo: violinists… (Stanley Mak )

The name Da Camera Players is familiar to Da Camera Society of Mount St. Mary’s College’s Chamber Music In Historic Sites devotees who heard the original group's performances in the 1980s and '90s. Likewise, the Park Plaza’s elegant Grand Ballroom overlooking MacArthur Park will resonate with some who remember its amazing acoustics and wonder why it isn’t used for music more often.

Tuesday night, the two came together – a new incarnation of Da Camera Players making its “formal debut” in the Grand Ballroom, which is uncannily suited for string music. It couldn’t miss, as they say – and it didn’t.

Led by violinist Ida Levin, this edition dealt from the top of the deck, sporting two Los Angeles Philharmonic section leaders – principal violist Carrie Dennis and first associate concertmaster Nathan Cole – two former Philharmonic principal cellists, Ronald Leonard and Peter Stumpf, the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra’s concertmaster Margaret Batjer, and two young soloists, violinist Tien-Hsin Cindy Wu and violist Nokuthula Ngwenyama. 

The musicians were spread variously among three works – Richard Strauss’ magically wistful glance back to another time, the Sextet from his last opera, “Capriccio”; Mozart’s eloquently somber String Quintet in G minor, K. 516; and the piece that every string player wants to play at the slightest excuse, Mendelssohn’s Octet.

Throughout, the players produced a deep, warm, larger-than-their-numbers sound with a rich lower end resonating through the room’s wood surfaces, even through the soles of our shoes.  And in the Octet – set at crackling tempos, wild yet unified to a degree that doesn’t happen too often with ad-hoc ensembles in this piece – everyone entered a high-energy zone in the finale that blazed down the stretch.

There will be other editions of Da Camera Players in coming seasons, with a downtown festival in the works.  And please, bring them back to this room.


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