Friday, February 12, 1999

Russian Orchestra, Chorale Join
for a Delightful Musical Mosaic

It was a piecemeal feast, but a feast nonetheless that descended on the Bel-Air Presbyterian Church Sunday night. On the program were the Angeles Chorale, and its children's chorus, joined by the touring Chamber Orchestra Kremlin. This young and polished group, directed by Misha Rachlevsky, has recently been touring the West Coast and made its final of several Southern California stops at this hilltop sanctuary.

If there was an official centerpiece to the multifarious program, it had to be Schubert's mighty yet compact Mass in G. Here, the full resonant force of the 100-voice chorale colluded with the orchestral ensemble, organist Alan Raines and nicely honed soloists--soprano Kristin Hightower, tenor Jonathan Mack and bass Wayne Shepperd.

The chorale also raised its formidable collective voice in excerpts from Haydn's "The Creation," Mendelssohn's "St. Paul" and Handel's "Messiah," to close on a majestic note. Incidental pleasures along the way included four short Mozart sonatas for strings and organ, featuring Raines, and respectable ensemble work from the Angeles Chorale Children's Chorus on liturgical themes. The Russian orchestra shone in its instrumental showcase in the melodically sinuous introduction to Strauss' last opera, "Capriccio."

But the quirkiest, and perhaps most memorable, delight this evening proved to be Prokofiev's "Visions Fugitives," a piano piece transcribed (and abridged) by Rudolf Barshai for chamber string orchestra. A mosaic of brief pieces, some well under a minute, generate fleeting evocations, sensations carried on the wind, now witty, now poignant. It plays like a series of film cues for an unmade art film, one we'd like to see.