The Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra (LACO) and Music Director Jaime Martín were brilliant in their opening of the Baroque Conversations series on Nov. 21 at the First Presbyterian Church of Santa Monica.
Setting the mood for the evening, Martín opened with a wonderful energy on Telemann’s Overture in F Major. His movements were effusive, and the group responded by taking flight with the breezy up-tempo style. The horns were always on cue, never a cracked attack or missed ornament. Julie Landsman’s energetic tone projected through the ensemble and served an exacting role. The horns were superb at every turn and, along with bassoonist Kenneth Munday, held the keys to the engine all night.
Seeming out of place on the program was Richard Strauss’ Duet-Concertino for Clarinet and Bassoon, one of his last works (1948). The connection to the Baroque, however, was the underlying inspiration for the duet — Beauty and the Beast, first published in 1740. Strauss cast the clarinet in the role of Beauty and the bassoon in the role of the Beast. Clarinetist Jaime Ranz was convincing with his lyrical phrasing. His instrument was expressive in his hands as he captured the innocent essence of his character. Munday displayed his incredible versatility and skill as a soloist. His part was demanding as he portrayed the subtle transformation of his musical character.
The highlight and namesake of the program was the Suite No. 1 in F major from Handel’s Water Music. We can only imagine what it would be like hanging out on the royal barge with King George I listening to this glorious music for the first time. But there we were… now as then, captivated by these timeless tunes. It was impossible to ignore the perceptual draw to the music. The ensemble was flawless and unified; the concert had a life force of its own. For a few minutes, all the frustrations of modern life had vanished, swept away in a magical flow. And what an ending — the iconic Alla Hornpipe. A truly unforgettable performance left the audience stunned.
A standing ovation ensued, and as we calmed, Martín graced us with an encore that was so sweet, so delicate, so calming… Bach’s Air on the G String from the second movement of his third Orchestral Suite. The LACO strings fused together as a single body, in perfect harmony and motion. What a rare treat. I’ve rarely experienced such affect.
And then into the night we went — glorious! What a way to sail into the holidays. Bravo, LACO!