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L.A. CHAMBER ORCHESTRA IN PASADENA

Times Music Writer

Because of cutbacks in performances due to its financial crisis last summer, Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, as a full, operating, winds-and-strings ensemble, gathered for only the second time in this 1986-87 season, Saturday night in Ambassador Auditorium.

But under happy circumstances. For one thing, the funding crunch has been alleviated for the time being, according to the orchestra’s management. For another, outgoing music director Gerard Schwarz was on the podium for this program of works by Puccini, Beethoven, Ludwig Spohr and Schubert.

Puccini? Yes, his early “Crisantemi” (1890; originally for string quartet), a work that served notice of the Italian opera composer’s irrepressible lyric and melodic gifts. Schwarz, never one to arrange a hackneyed program, placed “Crisantemi” first on this agenda, then brought it vibrantly to life.

Dimitri Sitkovetsky, the 32-year-old Russian emigre who completed his training as violinist in this country in the last decade, was soloist in Beethoven’s Romance in G and Spohr’s tight and dramatic Eighth Violin Concerto, subtitled “In modo di scena cantante.”

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In both pieces, Sitkovetsky showed again the solid technical achievement and articulate musicality he demonstrated at his debut with this orchestra two years ago. But, while one had to admire his Classical restraint, one also noted that there seems to be in his playing no extra reservoir of personal involvement or abundance of passion. Nor does his slender and undifferentiated tone tend to illuminate the music at hand.

Schwarz devoted the second half of this program to music of Schubert--Anton Webern’s transparent and affectionate transcription of Six German Dances, and the eternally sunny Fifth Symphony.

In both, but especially in solo passages gracefully wrought by the orchestra’s principals, one felt the tangible regard the players of LACO have for their departing leader, as well as Schwarz’s unflagging sense of Schubertian line and communication. Not all of the playing was polished or perfectly smooth, but it all sang forth without self-consciousness.


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