Lin soars on beauty of Bernstein

Special to The Times

A longtime visitor to local stages, violinist Cho-Liang Lin nonetheless made his first appearance with the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra over the weekend at the opening events of the ensemble’s 38th consecutive season.

It was a gratifying debut too. Lin’s relaxed virtuosity and pointed musicality -- the Taiwanese American violinist always seems to explore the depths of the music he plays -- this time focused on the radiant beauties of Leonard Bernstein’s Serenade for violin, strings, harp and percussion from 1954.

He gave the piece all its many facets, assisted engagingly by conductor Jeffrey Kahane and the orchestra. Cellist Douglas Davis was Lin’s sensitive duo partner in the fifth movement. This became a revealing performance of one of Bernstein’s strongest works.

Music director Kahane, beginning his 10th season as leader of LACO, offered a premiere to open the program. Gernot Wolfgang’s “Continuum IV -- Cascades” was commissioned and performed by flutist Susan Greenberg, a longtime member of the orchestra. It is a gently dissonant, bright and aggressively amiable piece, alternately jazzy and pastoral.


Greenberg negotiated its showy complexities effortlessly, playing alto flute, flute and piccolo with equal aplomb. Kahane and the orchestra gave solid support.

The Saturday opening, at the Alex Theatre in Glendale -- which was scheduled for repeat at UCLA on Sunday -- concluded with Schumann’s beloved Second Symphony, performed with the orchestra’s resolute accomplishment. This reading moved along convincingly, all its parts in place, but without the full range of colors, inner voices and the dynamics one knows the work contains.

Whatever the mood, this performance reproduced it mostly in a monochromatic and loud mezzo forte. There is more here than met our ears.