[Updated 5 October 2015]
The season kickoff augurs well for the city’s newish conductorless ensemble. The Kaleidoscopes held a concert-cum-fundraiser of Prokofiev, Schoenberg (no, not that one), and Dvorak in the friendly and packed confines of the Colburn’s Zipper Hall. The Classical Symphony and the Cello Concerto showed that this experiment in democracy has a serious chance of success. The strings are very good and in synch, no mean feat since many of them can’t see one another. Most of the performers stand, the strong cello and bass unions negotiated chairs and stools respectively. The woodwinds and brass were terrific. The Phil’s Robert deMaine gave the group someone to focus on in the concerto but he didn’t assume the role of conductor without portfolio. Schoenberg’s (Adam, not Arnold) short Canto, winner of the group’s commission competition, brought Copland’s Quiet City to mind. It’s a heartfelt piece inspired by the composer’s sleeping infant unabashedly intent on evoking a specific response.
It’s not clear how the group handles dynamics and handoffs on its own but it does. There weren’t any obvious glances or nods in the first two pieces with some discreet glances among sections discernible in the Concerto’s rondo. It’s an impressive feat. A preconcert video showed the rehearsal philosophy with wry commentary from the participants – the democratic approach may make for talky rehearsals but there is payoff in the performance. The flute and woodwind work in the Prokofiev’s bravura final movement fired on all cylinders. Birds and fish flock and school, know where they’re going, and turn together in an instant. So do these mostly young folks many with current ties to the Colburn.
There’s talent up and down the roster and the leadership seems to know what it’s about. Four future performance weekends will take place at locations to be announced in Santa Monica and Glendale. Ives, Brahms, Weinberg, Mozart, Schoenberg (yes, that one), Messiaen, and Beethoven are on the schedule. So is John Adams but their taste will improve with age. On top of the concerts, they have outreach programs for youth and the underserved. It’s going to be fun watching them grow.
On the subject of bird behavior, Craig Reynolds’s ‘Boids’ computer models from the late 1980s mimic complex flocking patterns with some simple rules. Here are some latter-day examples set to a possibly recognizable tune.