MUSIC REVIEW : Porat Conducts Mozart Camerata in Season Opener

The Mozart Camerata did not offer a program fraught with intellectual challenge Saturday night at St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church in Newport Beach. Neither did it plumb new emotional depths. Yet the performance was anything but mundane.

Throughout the evening of works by J. C. Bach and Mozart, director Ami Porat drew distinctive agreement in tone and technical precision from the chamber orchestra. They etched a crisply delineated Allegro in J.C. Bach's Sinfonia Op. 3, No. 2, and clean, exuberant outer movements in Mozart's Symphony No. 34 (all the works on the program were in C, and the evening was facetiously dubbed "Adventures in C Major").

The Camerata further distinguished itself by consummate control of dynamics, both in hushed subtleties of the slow movement and in sudden contrasts of the opening movement of the symphony. Balance, too, contributed to a sense of dynamic control, especially through an unusual range of soft shadings offered by the winds in response to quiet string passages in the same work.

Mozart's Concerto for Flute and Harp demands particularly rapt attention to balance--both between the soloists and between soloists and orchestra--in order to avoid swallowing the quieter harp. On this occasion, flutist Gary Woodward and the Mozart Camerata proved themselves equal to the task, while harpist Jo Ann Turovsky offered a complete range of soft, engaging nuance.

This concerto is an ingenuous work, more notable for its freshness and elegance than for its emotional impact. Accordingly, Turovsky and Woodward emphasized unpretentious charm, which they maintained despite frequent challenges by busy, transparent passages.

The sensitivity of the pair emerged most touchingly (though slightly hindered by the flutist's breathy tone) as they passed the lilting, aria-like theme to one another in the second movement. Here, their gracefully unfolding lines culminated successfully in a simple and unhurried cadenza, during which flute and harp complemented each other's expressive phrasing.

The Camerata accompanied with the same intelligent precision that had defined the orchestral compositions. As a result, a sense of purity--imparted by admirable clarity and control--pervaded the opening concert of their fifth season.

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