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Pacific Serenades Premieres Carlson’s ‘Quintet’

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Pacific Serenades, now entering its 11th annual concert season, is dedicated to the ever-good cause of quality chamber music in the area.

As for the chamber at-hand on Sunday afternoon, there was no lack of opulence in the Biltmore Hotel’s Emerald Room. An expert string group, led by Los Angeles Philharmonic concertmaster Martin Chalifour, played in a room lit by chandeliers, with wrap-around mirrors that help exaggerate the hall’s grandeur.

In keeping with the policy of presenting new works commissioned through the presenting group, this program included a premiere of “An American Quintet,” by Mark Carlson, also the series’ founder and director.

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The work begins on expressive footing, with a moving treatment of a 19th century hymn, “And Am I Born to Die?” In Carlson’s scheme, the rueful melody is hauntingly offset by terse harmonic beds and surrounded by cascading lines.

Unfortunately, the ensuing two movements are slight to the point of distraction. “Elegy (for Ella)” pays homage to the late Ella Fitzgerald but lacks jazz essence--i.e. the elusive and all-important swing factor--while the breezy North American-meets-South American penchant of “Lark” lacks apparent purpose.

Dvorak’s Terzetto in C, Opus 74, smartly played by a string trio, opened the concert on solid Romantic ground.

The afternoon’s high point, though, came with Mozart’s String Quintet in G minor, K. 516, in a cohesive reading that benefited from gentility, polish and verve.

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