According to the publicity, the goal of the newly formed Los Angeles Orchestral Ensemble is no less than “a fusion of the arts"--maybe a kind of midtown Los Angeles Gesamtkunstwerk.
But nothing that pretentious occurred in the small recital hall of the Wilshire Ebell Club on Sunday afternoon. The ensemble was small, the audience was small, the music played was small. Nevertheless, the event was pleasant, and in a modest way interesting.
The most novel exercise was a virtually unknown Concertino for piano and ensemble by Leos Janacek. It boasted numerous oddities. The first movement is a duet between the solo piano and a single horn, a device continued in the second movement, with a clarinet replacing the horn. The last two movements are more orthodox in structure without ever engaging more than five accompanying instruments.
The music is vigorously rhythmical, sometimes challengingly dissonant, and echoes Czech folk idioms in the characteristic manner of Janacek. Armen Guzelimian played the grateful solo with admirable energy and enthusiasm, and Gregory Sullivan Isaacs’ conducting held things together.
The well-routined players of the ensemble acquitted themselves professionally in Rossini’s tuneful Serenade for small ensemble and in the full-length “Facade” by Sir William Walton, based on the recited poetry of Dame Edith Sitwell.
Isaacs extracted perky playing from his instrumentalists and Kristin Peterson read the verses with the requisite tongue-in-cheek English music-hall style. But it was a sad mistake to talk into a microphone; it only jumbled and distorted the texts to an extent that very few words came out clearly.