By Don Heckman
Beverly Hills, CA. The Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra’s A La Carte performances, which take place in private international residences throughout Los Angeles, are among the Southland’s most appealing musical events. Each features a chamber music performance by distinguished members of LACO, along with gourmet dinners and prime beverages celebrating the cuisine of the host country.
On Thursday night LACO’s A La Carte France event took place in the Beverly Hills home of the Honorable Axel Cruau, the Consul General of France in Los Angeles, and Mrs. Dourene Cruau. The program, appropriately, featured French music. But what made the program especially intriguing was the focus on Baroque music by French composers Jean-Philippe Rameau, Francois Couperin, Jean-Baptiste Anet and Michel Blavet.
The performance took place in an intimate drawing room opening on to the lush greenery at the rear of the house that would soon be filled with white tables for the after-concert feasting.
The artists – violinist Josefina Vergara, who also led the ensemble, flutist David Shostac and harpsichordist Patricia Mabee – began the program with Couperin’s four movement Concerts Royaux No. 1. And two aspects became immediately clear: that the trio would perform with warmly empathic musical interaction; and that the French Baroque catalog of music is as unique and engaging as the more familiar German style.
Before the next pieces were played, Vergara offered an explanation of the use of ornamentation – the application of decorative notes, often complex, usually improvised, added to a written melody. Each of the players offered a passage without ornamentation followed by the same passage with varying degrees of ornamentation.
The brief seminar, with its description and demonstration of ornamentation, created a more informed, more responsive audience. And the trio responded with a pair of pieces: Anet’s Sonata For Violin and Harpsichord and Blavet’s Sonata in B minor for Flute and Harpsichord. Each was performed with articulate enthusiasm, with some of the ornamented passages drawing bits of applause and glances of approval.
At the heart of the music, harpsichordist Mabee brought a convincing sense of authenticity to her final feature work, Rameau’s enigmatic Pieces de clavecin en concert (La Marais, La La Popliniere, La Timide, Tambourin). Great demands are placed upon the keyboard instruments in most Baroque music. And Mabee delivered on all counts, romping through the improvised figured bass passages, playing with vigor that brought each piece vividly to life..
All in all, it was another successful A La Carte event, and like others I’ve heard in recent years, it was one to remember. If you haven’t yet experienced any of LACO’s A La Cartes, there are two remaining performances on the 2014 schedule: Germany is featured on Oct. 25 with a complete performance of Richard Strauss’ Metamorphosen; Austria is featured on Nov. 7 with the music of Mozart, Toch, Eisler and Haydn.
Don’t miss these last two opportunities. In addition to the pleasures of the performances, proceeds from the A La Carte events support the artistic and education programming of the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra. Click HERE for more information about LACO’s A La Carte.