MUSIC REVIEW : Chicago Ensemble in Beverly Hills

"Select," in the sense of choice and stylish, would be a good comprehensive term for the concert that the Chicago Symphony Chamber Ensemble performed in a ballroom at the Four Seasons Hotel in Beverly Hills Wednesday night.

The sponsor was the Chamber Music in Historic Sites series. The erstwhile ballroom may not be precisely a historical site, but considering how well it all worked, some semantic flexibility may be allowed. The music was choice, the performances were choice, and the room seemed to suggest a new and eventually popular site for music.

The program will be repeated Sunday afternoon at the Orange County Performing Arts Center.

The five members of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra Chamber Ensemble are: David Taylor, violin; Robert Swan, viola; Gary Stucka, cello; Michael Henoch, oboe, and Andrea Swan, piano. Plainly these musicians derive from a substantial tradition. Their tones blend easily, they phrase with unanimity and there are no jarring individual opinions as to tempo, dynamics and general interpretive conception.

Dire traffic on roadways approaching the Four Seasons precluded a complete hearing of the opening Quartet for Oboe and Strings in B-flat, by Haydn. In what was heard, the oboe sound of Henoch was crisp, clear and neatly modulated.

The oboe also became a leading voice in two Rhapsodies for Oboe, Violin and Piano by the once highly respected turn-of-the-century American composer Charles Martin Loeffler. The music owes considerable debt to Debussy and his followers and is craftsman-like and agreeable to the ear.

The violin and viola of Taylor and Swan came together in Mozart's Duo in G, K. 423, a bit more scholarly than lighthearted, but nicely adjusted by the two string players.

The towering masterpiece of the agenda, however, was Mendelssohn's magnificent Trio No. 1 in D minor, which was given a superior reading by Taylor and Stucka with Swan supplying an uplifting piano part.

The Chicago Symphony Chamber Ensemble will play Sunday at 2 p.m. at the Orange County Performing Arts Center, 600 Town Center Drive, Costa Mesa. Tickets: $6 to $20. Information: (714) 556-2787.

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