Conductor Peter Oundjian made his debut with the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra on December 12 and 13, featuring a program of Bartók, Mendelssohn and Beethoven. Nineteen-year-old virtuosic violinist Simone Porter, a replacement for the ill Stefan Jackiw, soared effortlessly through Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto in E minor.
Employing his substantial wit and engaging personality, Oundjian apologized for bringing foul weather from England, where he was educated. The conductor is currently Music Director of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, which he helped rescue from financial difficulty (detailed in the documentary Five Days in September: The Rebirth of an Orchestra). Oundjian is also Music Director of the Royal Scottish National Orchestra.
The evening at UCLA’s Royce Hall launched with Bartok’s Divertimento, Sz. 113, a three-movement work that begins lightly with gypsy overtones, giving way to the dark depths of Molto adagio, the second movement––played with haunting intensity. The third movement’s rondo is quick, and brings back the gypsy influence––all conducted with great alacrity by Oundjian.
Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto is known for its immediate entrance of the violin solo at the work’s start, rather than at the standard placement following the first movement. All the better to hear more of violin soloist Simone Porter. In truth, the concerto seemed built for Porter who easily conquered all three movements, delivering rapturous tones and exquisite emotional shading throughout.
Decked in shimmering gold lame and planted center stage, Porter looked an Olympian goddess, delivering sounds worthy of myth.
Porter stepped onto the professional stage with the Seattle Symphony at age 10, and by age 13, made bows on the international stage––with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. She received an Avery Fisher Career Grant in March 2015. She made her Walt Disney Concert Hall debut with Gustavo Dudamel this past October, playing a 1745 J.B. Guadagnini violin on loan from the Mandell Collection of Southern California.
Concluding the evening: Beethoven’s jovial Symphony No. 4 in B-flat major––a rarer choice, explained Oundjian, since many programs favor the more popular of Beethoven symphonies: No.’s 3, 5 and 9.
The audience in the mostly full house was wildly appreciative of the accomplished orchestra, conductor and soloist––many of them on their feet after each of the works. The three works were well paired in the highly focused, yet artfully fluid evening.
Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra was founded nearly 50 years ago, and has been proclaimed “America’s finest chamber orchestra” by Public Radio International.”
Upcoming events include Bach’s Cantata No. 140, Sleepers Awake; “Baroque Conversations 2,” and “La Vie en Rose, An Evening in Paris,” featuring French classical composers and the legendary songs of Edith Piaf.