March 05, 2008
Classical Brilliance from Hollywood
Die Welt, Hamburg
5 March 2008
By Helmut Peters
The Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra with Mezzo-Soprano Vesselina Kasarova
In Germany one rarely encounters an orchestra whose members take the stage smiling happily, almost radiantly. Not only did the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra do just that at its Musikhalle appearance on Monday, it worked itself up into even higher spirits with every measure….
First of all, the high proportion of female musicians in the current ensemble is conspicuous. There is only one man in the second violin section and not a single male in the first violins. We do not wish to debate whether this fact affects the LACO’s sound in any way. Regardless of that, we emphasize that the orchestra plays Joseph Haydn’s Symphony No. 99 in E flat major, one of his twelve London symphonies, very differently than we are accustomed to hearing it from European orchestras nowadays. Gently contoured and almost timid in the amplitude of the vibrato, the jaunty lightheartedness of this Viennese Classicism is reminiscent of Karl Böhm’s style at the end of the 1960s and regards sharply accented historical performance practice rather skeptically. When a whirling tempest breaks out of the soft whisper at the beginning of the Finale, while the winds mischievously and brashly defy the strings, one can only admire the tremendous precision of this chamber orchestra’s ensemble playing.
It is much more common in America than in Europe for a conductor to turn to the audience in the middle of a concert as Kahane did and enthusiastically introduce the solo clarinetist in the aria “Parto, ma tu ben mio” from Mozart’s La clemenza di Tito.
. . . Rossini literally dribbles the notes in the orchestral part like a basketball player dribbles the ball and makes the sonic landscape resonate in order to single-mindedly go on to the next offensive. The same orchestral athleticism and dynamism also characterized the Pulcinella Suite, based on themes of Giovanni Battista Pergolesi, by Igor Stravinsky, who was familiar with Hollywood himself and would undoubtedly have enjoyed the fresh sound of this former film orchestra.
Visit the LACO Gallery to see pictures from the European tour.