Mozart Chamber Series Ends on Solid Note

Chamber music, for some mysterious reason, seems to thrive in the Sepulveda Pass. The Los Angeles Philharmonic's chamber music series has attracted large audiences to the University of Judaism there for many years. Now, across the freeway, at the newer Skirball Cultural Museum, a chamber music scene may be emerging as well, as recent offerings and strong turnouts suggest. Thursday night's event, the last of three concerts given by the Los Angeles Mozart Orchestra Chamber Players at the venue this season, built on that.

Or did it? According to a source from the orchestra, the Mozart Players will not be coming back next season. And the Skirball Center has not announced what will take its place. Stay tuned.

Thursday's program matched three Baroque works with a work from 1958, American composer Lester Trimble's "Four Fragments From the Canterbury Tales," neo-Baroque in style. The performances were solid but not scintillating.

Most satisfying was Leslie Reed's traversal of Allessandro Marcello's D-minor Oboe Concerto, a piece much admired and transcribed (for solo harpsichord) by Bach. Indeed, the original proved an attractive blending of streaming Italianate melody and characterful accompaniment. Reed gave it rich color and buoyant energy, in the slow movement producing a single, seamless line through the use of circular breathing, a technique that allows the tone to continue even while the player inhales.

Trimble's "Fragments," for soprano, flute, clarinet and harpsichord, makes modernistic but friendly use of antique materials, turning dance rhythms, for instance, into ostinatos. Though soprano Camille King brought a creamy voice and taut inflection to bear, the performance was compromised by the lack of the complete printed text; Old English is easier to read than to understand aloud.

Bach's Fifth "Brandenburg" Concerto received a bland run-through, the soloists lackadaisical in projection (with the exception of the Mozart Orchestra conductor Lucinda Carver, offering well-cut phrases at the harpsichord). Telemann's Quartet for Two Violins, Oboe and Continuo rounded out the program pleasantly but innocuously.

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