Live Classical Music: Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra’s “Germany A La Carte”

By Don Heckman

There are a lot of reasons for attending the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra‘s A La Carte programs. Start with the music, overflowing with classic works performed by small chamber ensembles. Add to that the elegant settings for the performances, which take place in the homes of diplomats from various parts of the world. And don’t forget the opportunity to meet the intriguing classical music fans who share the evenings’ gourmet dinners and prime beverages celebrating the cuisine of the host country.

All of which were present Saturday night for the Germany A La Carte event at the Hancock Park home of Dr. Bernd Fischer, Consul General of Germany, and his wife Mrs. Jutta Fischer in a program dedicated to the Baroque music of J.S. Bach and his contemporaries.

The ensemble for the program consisted of violinists Josefina Vergara and Sarah Thornblade, cellists Trevor Handy and harpsichordist Patricia Mabee. Performing in a stately drawing room overlooking the mansion’s far-reaching greensward, the quartet offered a program beginning with Handel, followed by Bach, another Handel work and concluding with a rare opportunity to hear a work by German composer Johann Gottlieb Goldberg.

LACO "Germany a la Carte"
LACO “Germany a la Carte”

And there was much to praise about the performances: the soaring melodies of Handel’s Trio Sonata in G minor; the delightful interplay between violin and harpsichord in Bach’s Sonata in A Major for Violin and Clavier; the articulate expressiveness of Handel’s Violin Sonata in D Major; and Goldberg’s Bach-influenced Trio Sonata in C Major, composed by the virtuosic keyboardist whose fame, such as it is, primarily traces to his role as the initial performer of the J.S. Bach work that came to be known as the Goldberg Variations.

Suffice to say that the performances were delivered with the sort of interpretive magic and technical accuracy that have been richly present in all of LACO’s A La Carte programs. The more LACO programs I hear (in the A La Carte series and beyond), the more impressed I am by the far ranging skills of the LACO players. Whether performing in a chamber ensemble or the full orchestra, whether playing Renaissance and Baroque music or contemporary compositions (some of which are commissioned by LACO), the players in this superb ensemble seem to have no limits to their abilities to bring vivid life to everything they play.

Another aspect of the A La Carte programs is the way in which the concerts and their settings seem to revive the ambience of early chamber music settings. Listening to the music up close and personal, enjoying the superb cuisine and the fine wines in the company of L.A.’s version of the aristocrats who funded the original Baroque chamber music concerts, one couldn’t help but fantasize about what it could have been like to have heard this captivating music in its original historical setting. Thank the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra and its players for making it possible to come close .

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Photo by Faith Frenz.

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