MUSIC REVIEW : Chamber Society in 20th-Century Program

It was an adventurous night for the Los Angeles Philharmonic Chamber Music Society Monday at the University of Judaism. The organization's often safe and sane programming gave way to a stimulating 20th-Century agenda. It could almost have taken place under a Green Umbrella.

With an entire orchestra to draw on, the Chamber Music Society presented four unusual instrumental combinations in this Gindi Auditorium concert. Capping the evening in bubbly fashion was a beautifully polished account of the 1918 Suite from Stravinsky's "L'Histoire du Soldat."

It seemed a little too beautifully polished, in fact. The composer's primitive, acerbic and sometimes deliberately awkward creation became rich, breezy and fluid. The Philharmonic players--violinist Michele Bovyer, clarinetist Lorin Levee, trombonist Ralph Sauer and trumpeter Boyde Hood among them--sounded determined to show how easily they could dispatch this music, and impressively did so, but they missed a lot of the grit in the process. It was the musical equivalent of setting the angles right on a Picasso. It was spiffy, though.

Janacek's wind sextet "Mladi" (Youth) opened the event in colorful and carefree fashion, though the sometimes mushy ensemble work and spacious acoustics kept a few of its charms at bay. Violinists Mark Kashper and SuLi Xue took on the icy swirls and jagged dialogue of Prokofiev's seldom-heard Sonata with neat intensity.

Russian American David Finko's understated and poignant 1968 "Mourning Music"--originally pointedly subtitled "String Quartet Without the First Violinist"--emerged warm and poised in the hands of the string trio of Tamara Chernyak, Meredith Snow and Gloria Lum. As a whole, the program seemed a bit hodgepodge, but every hodge and podge along the way proved welcome.

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