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Times Staff Writer

Gerard Schwarz put together a wildly eclectic agenda for his first Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra program of the year: a revival of Henri Lazarof’s arcane Chamber Symphony (which the orchestra, under the composer, had introduced in 1977); Saint-Saens’ irresistible and circusy Fifth Piano Concerto, and Mozart’s benign, untroubled “Posthorn” Serenade.

Heard Saturday night at Ambassador Auditorium, this assemblage of strong musical entities may have discombobulated the sensitive listener, but it seemed to send no one running from the hall. It just offered as much variety as any chamber orchestra program may be able to bear.

Its climactic point proved to be Lorin Hollander’s manic account of Saint-Saens’ still-wondrous Concerto No. 5. Insofar as Hollander probed the shallows, elucidated the eccentricities, delivered all the colors and resonated the emotionalism of the work, this was the performance of a lifetime.


Indeed, Hollander may be the perfect exponent of this kaleidoscopic piece, since he so obviously believes in it and since his pianistic resources parallel its wide-ranging demands.

Saturday, he engaged his audience in a cool and microscopic perusal of the work’s details while at the same time ascending all its peaks; he caressed the valleys and stormed the heights. Simultaneously, Schwarz & Co. attended beautifully to the duties of assisting, and the total reading emerged both loving and immaculate. Saint-Saens seldom has it so good.

Lazarof’s spare, refined and mostly pensive Chamber Symphony (1976) also benefited from affectionate care by the performers. Except for one shattering climax in the central movement, it is a quiet work--aggressively quiet, of course, as one would expect from Lazarof--which deals cannily in subtleties of texture and timbre, to haunting effect. Schwarz and the orchestra seemed to achieve the full extent of that effect.

The crown of the evening then became Mozart’s joyous Serenade in D, K. 320, wherein conductor Schwarz and the Chamber Orchestra provided a robust and detailed reading, as well as soloists from within the orchestra who let the work soar: flutist David Shostac, oboist Allan Vogel and, on the posthorn, trumpeter Mario Guarneri.