MUSIC REVIEW : Orange County Chamber Orchestra Begins Its Season on an Intimate Note

Chamber music provides a prime canvas for personal statement. Sunday afternoon, for the opening concert of the Orange County Chamber Orchestra's seventh season, Micah Levy directed a program rife with intimate sentiment.

And his soloists--violinist Diana Halprin and violist Geraldine Walther--painted some of the most searching musical moments.

Before a reported audience of 350 at St. Joseph Center in Orange, Halprin and Walther were featured both as a duo, in Mozart's Sinfonia Concertante, and singly, in Faure's "Berceuse" and Hindemith's "Trauermusik," respectively.

As a pair, the two etched a sensitive dialogue. With focused tone and strict attention to balance, violin and viola continued each other's lines naturally and, obviously moved by each other's poignant statements, uttered empathic replies.

Separately, Walther attacked the mournful lines of Hindemith's lament for the passing of King George V with authority and passion; for her part, Halprin charmed the audience with an aggressive yet unforced "Berceuse." In the former, the orchestra partnered sympathetically, especially in the tenuously touching, sustained lines of the chorale.

But, in unfortunate contrast with their concertmistress's openness, the ensemble accompanied with miserly restraint in the Faure piece.

This sort of inconsistency marked the orchestral portions throughout the concert. In Wagner's "Siegfried Idyll," the orchestra shone with lush sensuality in waves of stirring climaxes but dulled Wagner's chromatic edges.

Similarly, in the Sinfonia Concertante, Levy successfully controlled clarity by crisp accents in the Presto. But he sought in vain to draw intensity from the violins in the slow movement.

Though the quality in weightier works was unpredictable, Telemann's "Don Quixote" Suite emerged reliably crisp and good natured. However, composer and orchestra cloaked tongue-in-cheek humor with so much misleading refinement that the audience sat politely in prolonged silence at the conclusion of the final movement--the race entitled "Don Quixote at Rest"--waiting for the promised repose.

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