The agenda for the first of this season's Sunday morning Croissants and Coffee and Chamber Music at the Taper programs, sponsored by the California Chamber Symphony Society, reflected a penchant for the tried-and-true this weekend.
If artistic director Henri Temianka is to be criticized for a lack of adventurousness, however, it must be added that he is knowledgeable about the music and utterly sincere in his love for it. Temianka likes to offer informal commentary instead of program notes, and his introductions proved interesting and tactfully brief.
The concert opened with Mozart's Clarinet Quintet, K. 581. Clarinetist James Kantor played with a smooth, velvety sound, superb control and dauntless equanimity. Though he did take some rhythmic liberties, his account was surprisingly cool and his dynamic spectrum relatively narrow.
The string players--violinists Stuart Canin and Roger Wilkie, violist Donald McInnes and cellist Timothy Landauer--exuded somewhat greater warmth, particularly in the outer movements. The ensemble, alas, lacked rhythmic security, and the middle section of the Larghetto was ruined when Landauer lost his place.
Following a short intermission, those players (minus Wilkie) joined bassoonist Kenneth Munday, hornist Richard Todd and bassist Bruce Morgenthaler in Beethoven's Septet, Opus 20. Occasionally ragged entrances and questionable intonation detracted, and the violin-dominated balances could well have been adjusted. Throughout most of the work, however, the seven generated a great deal of good-natured energy, with expressive lyricism and considerable virtuosity from individual players; one might single out Canin, Munday and Todd.