Jean-Francois Paillard, who founded in 1953 the chamber orchestra that now bears his name, has come to that place in his career where he is leading a second generation of instrumentalists, players born after the formation of the ensemble.
That seemed the case Monday night, when the touring French orchestra opened the 1988-89 season of the Laguna Beach Chamber Music Society, in the auditorium at Laguna Beach High School.
In a program of instrumental music by J. S. Bach, this 13-member ensemble, which plays in a hearty, confident, stylish and incisive manner, resembled very little the bland Paillard group that toured here in the 1960s. The present chamber orchestra operates from individual and ensemble strengths and plays with consistent aggressiveness; it even seems to tune high.
Unfortunately, the strongest item performed was the first work on the program, the Second Suite for flute, strings and continuo, BWV 1067. Shigenori Kudo (born 1954) was the virtuosic, characterful soloist; he brought elegant phrasing, fluidity of line, gorgeous tone and a contained sense of structure to the familiar work. Paillard and the small orchestra collaborated neatly.
The A-minor Violin Concerto, with concertmaster Gerard Jarry as soloist, occupied a lower energy plateau and found all participants less spontaneous. As played by seven strings of the ensemble, the “Ricercar a 6" from “Musikalisches Opfer,” emerged stoic and dutiful rather than articulate and motivated.
The Fifth “Brandenburg” Concerto closed this program, in a pleasant, even jolly--in the finale--reading.
But the three soloists proved fatally dissimilar. Not only did they seem to come out of three contrasting generations, but they also demonstrated conflicting musical personalities--the flutist (Kudo) outgoing and brilliant, the harpsichordist (Richard Siegel) capable but timid, the violinist (Jarry) solid but uninspired. The performance ended in smiles, but that joy was a little late.