The Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra (LACO) concluded its 44th season with ‘Concerto Finale’ last Sunday, May 19, 2013, at 7 p.m. at UCLA’s Royce Hall in Westwood. The program featured a compelling mix of historical masterpieces and contemporary compositions, showcasing once more LACO’s wide-ranging repertoire.
LACO’s Music Director and Conductor Jeffrey Kahane, who has long been committed to advocating artists early in their careers, opened the evening with a work of Anna Clyne, ‘Within Her Arms’, followed by the US premiere of up-and-coming French composer Hugo Gonzalez-Pioli’s ‘The Love Of Zero’, an intriguing bassoon concerto, featuring LACO Principal Bassoon Kenneth Munday and played with Robert Florey’s avant-garde 1927 short silent film of the same title.
The second half of the evening opened with Beethoven’s dramatic Coriolan Overture opus 62, building up to the concluding piece, Shostakovitch’s Cello Concerto No 1 in E-Flat minor, opus 107, featuring critically acclaimed American cellist Alisa Weilerstein. With a brilliant performance of this captivating and challenging piece, which was originally composed for legendary cellist Mstislav Rostropovich, Weilerstein proved once more her natural virtuosic command, technical precision and impassioned musicianship for which she has gained worldwide attention.
All four compositions of the season-concluding LACO concert presented music in the service of drama; and conductor Kahane, who marks his 16th season as LACO’s music director, excellently showcased and interpreted the different approaches of each piece to this theme.
Award-winning composer Anna Clyne’s ‘Within Her Arms’ for 15 strings, which was inspired by a poem and love and loss, creates feelings of yearning and surprisingly comforting sadness, using rich and varied texture, many crescendi and decrescendi, as well as moments of unexpected silence, which was extremely well implemented by Kahane/LACO. Mournful, bitter-sweet and soothing at the same time, the strong foundation of the bass underneath carried the listener at all times.
Gonzalez-Pioli’s bassoon concerto, composed as the accompanying music to Robert Florey’s 1927 experimental film ‘The Love Of Zero’, which added a touch of Hollywood to the evening’s program, shows incredible flexibility to suit the dramatic needs of the narrative. Challenging for an orchestra and the bassoon soloist, the score requires changing meters and moods and shifting styles, including a dance-like interlude and references to jazz and swing.
Beethoven’s Coriolan Overture outlines the main themes of the dramatic story of the Roman general Gaius Marcius Coriolanus, who guided his troops to victory over the Volscians, was sent into exile upon rejecting the proposal to become a consul, and then led the Volscians back to the gates of Rome for vengeance.
Kahane and his musicians built up the suspense for the final piece of the evening, Shostakovich’s dramatic Cello Concerto No. 1. With the cello opening the concerto in the Allegretto, Weilerstein and the orchestra/Kahane kept the interaction tense and tight, with interjections from different instruments, notably the French horn and the timpani – a frenetic movement that hardly ever takes a break in this piece. Weilerstein elegantly moved to the more delicate, softer parts of the Moderato showing incredible sensitivity and fine musicianship, before shining in the cadenza, the heart and highlight of the Concerto and a tour de force for the soloist. Weilerstein mastered the solo with virtuosic command, technical precision and musical passion, before the orchestra joined her again in the fast-moving Allegro con moto finale.
For more than four decades, LACO has sustained and built on its reputation as one of America’s finest chamber orchestras – and the concluding concert of its 44th season marked another milestone on this path. For the 2013-14 season concert schedule, tickets and more information, visit www.laco.org