LACO (Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra) treats the delighted audience in Pasadena’s Ambassador Auditorium to a superlative program, led by “trailblazer” guest conductor Roderick Cox and featuring stellar violinist Randall Goosby.
By Toti O’Brien
Probably due to COVID-related precautions, the house isn’t full as, in “normal” conditions, it would have been. As a result, the sound – not absorbed by human bodies – freely expands and pristinely vibrates. Focus, attention and presence are highlighted among the spectators, as if they were attending a private, special ceremony rather than a public event.
Clearly, the pandemic has allowed to musicians of this caliber time for further refining their artistry. The forced absence from stage has rekindled passion and the thrill of performance. The ensemble’s sound is as fused, homogenous, synchronous – simultaneously pliable, soft, and immensely nuanced from beginning to end.
Wagner wrote Siegfried Idyll on the occasion of his third child’s birth. Perhaps one of his most beautiful works, this is Wagner “sotto voce.” Sensitive and intimate, the 18-minute-long single movement alternates two main themes, one lyrical, one playful, weaving them into a luminous tapestry that fluidly ebbs and flows, gently swells without ever reaching grandiosity. The pianissimos are masterfully rendered. They achieve the iridescence of watercolor, leave us breathless. Even the end is quiet, tender.
This refreshing start is followed by Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto in E minor, featuring soloist Randall Goosby. Mendelssohn’s well-known masterpiece atypically starts with the solo violin, skipping the orchestral opening. By this means, the composer conveys an impromptu feeling, as if a Gypsy fiddler had begun to play on a whim, waiting for his friends to join. And the ease of Goosby’s stage presence only confirms such impression. Seamless transitions between the three movements also foster this “happening” quality. Mendelssohn’s last major work for orchestra is both urgent and haunting, rapidly moving through a gamut of vivid emotions. Both the soloist and the orchestra give splendor to such a palette of colors – the crystalline purity of the violin shimmering against the soft textures of the lowest registers. Again, the pianissimos shine with silvery translucence. They are breathtaking.
Graciously, Goosby gifts the standing audience with a magical encore – Louisiana Blues Strut, by Coleridge-Taylor Perkinson. Juxtaposing two works of such different styles and chronologies, Goosby highlights their common thread of energy, inspiration and power. It’s a wonderful statement that doesn’t go unnoticed.
After intermission, Brahms’ Serenade No. 2 in A Major completes the program with five movements interlacing cantabile themes and more complex, syncopated, textured passages. Yet another chance for the orchestra to express nuance and flexibility, though “serenity” – a sense of grateful peacefulness – is what lingers, after the last note is sounded.
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