A short program of modest ambitions and modest satisfactions opened the new season for the Mozart Camerata Sunday afternoon. If not ideally polished, the performances in Newport Harbor High School Auditorium nonetheless pleased through forthright musicality in unhackneyed repertory.
Los Angeles Philharmonic concertmaster Sidney Weiss and his wife, pianist Jeanne Weiss, presented the case for a double concerto by Haydn with zealous authority. The odd little cadenzas pairing the violin with a single right-hand piano line were nicely balanced and synchronized, the passage work clear and the stylistic proprieties not grossly affronted.
Yet it was also easy to hear why this piece has not become a popular favorite. All the quirky contradictions of early Haydn manifested themselves, without the final degree of charm or fire from the composer or a comprehensive sense of resolution from the performers.
Conductor Ami Porat kept his 20-piece ensemble on the pace and deferential--indeed, overly reticent in the largo's pizzicato accompaniment. The hall seemed to project an exceedingly bright treble, something Porat reinforced, as more than one-third of his orchestra is made up of first violins.
This disposition of Porat's forces tended to emphasize the more superficial features of Mozart's Quartet in E-flat, K. 160. Porat certainly has historical justification for billing the work as a divertimento and presenting it with the full ensemble, but a stronger bass line would help, as would greater uniformity in the first violins.
The problem of balance was most apparent in Dvorak's Serenade, Op. 22, where the lone bass's pizzicato was often largely a visual effect. Otherwise, Porat enforced a sensitive dynamic plan, and his players responded alertly. Buoyant rhythm crisply executed and a feeling for form characterized his reading.