Out West Arts: Performance at the end of the world

Opera, music, theater, and art in Los Angeles and beyond

Stravinsky/Mozart - Part 2

April 19, 2010

Jeremy Denk and members of LACO
Photo: mine 2010

It was a week for classicism on L.A. concert stages. Almost eerily so, as the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra appeared at Royce Hall on Sunday (which I attended at their invitation) in a program that paralleled in many ways last Wednesday’s appearance by the Saint Louis Symphony at Walt Disney Concert Hall. Both programs featured works of Stravinsky and Mozart, pairing a concerto and orchestral piece from Stravinsky’s neo-classical period with a concerto and symphony from Mozart. Both ensembles were led by affable American music directors, in this case Jeffrey Kahane, and were joined by affable American soloists. On Wednesday LACO employed the services of pianist Jeremy Denk for Mozart’s Concerto Rondo in D major for Piano and Orchestra and Stravinsky’s Concerto for Piano and Wind Instruments. Both shows ended with a later Mozart symphony as well, with LACO taking the ever present 41st over SLSO’s choice of the 36th.

But with so many similarities, the two shows couldn’t have been further apart in outcome. As if in a mirror image response, LACO delivered impressive turns in Mozart which felt limp in the SLSO’s hands under David Robertson. Meanwhile, LACO's Stravinsky was somewhat manhandled. Which may speak to the different strengths and repertoire the groups are accustomed to. At the WDCH, the SLSO was a larger orchestral outfit parading as a chamber ensemble last week. And certainly while the orchestra is no stranger to Mozart, their docket is filled with lots of other larger, romantic fare. By contrast, LACO's size prevents as many performances of great big 18th and 19th century fare much more common with a larger ensemble. LACO, however, has spent more than a little time with the works of Mozart and other classical composers used to much smaller ensembles. Kahane and his players gave the Mozart a scrappy feel that fills Mozart's music with a real life flavor I for one love.

Of course, this was a big visit from Denk as well, who played the uncommon Stravinsky Concerto that eschewed strings in the Post-WWI milieu of its composition. And, although Denk's playing could get lost in the Royce Hall acoustics, it was an enjoyable dark and detailed performance. LACO's season continues with a chamber performance hosted by stage director Peter Sellars on April 29 at The Broad Stage and their next full concert the weekend of May 15.


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