Autonomous Collective: KCO’s Ives and Brahms in Santa Monica

Image courtesy Kaleidoscope Chamber Orchestra

Kaleidoscope Chamber Orchestra’s Brahms Fourth in Santa Monica’s First Presbyterian Church showed off the group’s journey with democratic approaches to a hierarchical performance practice. There’s no need to reanalyze this staple of the repertoire – its overall arc of tragedy still contains some wonderful melody and gives each section ample opprtunity to shine. Excellent winds and horns set and held the stage with the ensemble growing tighter and more confident with phrasing as the piece developed. This specific mix of the orchestra’s large roster got accustomed to the space and one another in short order. Conductorless playing has to be difficult and must be doubly so when the music calls for soft and shimmering strings. The Brahms starts off this way and the Ives Unanswered Question is a few ethereal minutes of nothing but. Kaleidoscope upped the ante with strings in the sanctuary lobby, woodwinds in a balcony, and the horns offstage behind the altar. Execution fell just short of ambition but acknowledge the effort to add this to the degree of difficulty. The real Unanswered Question was, as is often the case, “Where’s the audience?” The Friday night turnout was reminiscent of Los Angeles theatre with performers outnumbering audience and that’s a shame. One hopes the Sunday matinee in Glendale fared better.
This group looks quite capable of handling Ives, broadly speaking. It would be great to hear those gonzo horns and winds in the rollicking finale of the Second Symphony with its invocations of Reveille, Columbia Gem of the Ocean, and the Camptown Races. Oh doo-dah-day.

Next up: Weinberg, Mozart, and Schoenberg on 23 January (LA Theatre Center) and 24 January (Santa Monica, First Presbyterian Church)

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