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Mozart, Bach resound at Kala Academy

The Chamber Orchestra of the Child's Play (India) Foundation presented its debut concert at the Kala Academy on Saturday evening.

Presenting a wide-ranging programme that began with works by Johann Sebastian Bach, the group followed up with a popular Mozart violin concerto, and ended the evening with morceaux by Ravel, Gershwin, and Gstav Holst.

Camerata Child's Play India is the brain child of Luis Dias. On Saturday at the Kala Academy he appeared in a triple role: as Camerata's spokesperson, as an interviewer, and as a violist in the ensemble. The interviewee was Santiago Lusardi of the University of Seville, who has been deputed by that group to work with the foundation and has been training musicians and rehearsing the group for the past several weeks.

The results of that training were obvious. The local players, their ranks stiffened by a sprinkling of professional musicians from Spain and other countries, performed creditably; they showed a good grasp of orchestral discipline, played largely in tune, followed conductor Santiago's beat, and produced a pleasing and nuanced tone throughout the evening.

Bach's Brandenburg Concerto No. 4 was the opening showpiece. Bach here has written very challenging parts for the solo violin and two alto recorders; the harpsichordist here has far less to do than is demanded in the Brandenburg No. 5. Since a harpsichord was not available, a keyboard was used instead, but although the very competent Andrea Fernandes was playing it, its sound was drowned out by the other instrumentalists. Music of this period demands the clangour and chatter of plucked harpsichord strings, and Bach's six Brandenburg Concerti demand it most of all.

Once again good historical sense dictated that the orchestral forces be reduced to a minimum when Joanne de Mello, soprano, sang two arias from Bach's St Matthew Passion. Although she sang feelingly and the recorder players responded in kind, once again one missed the distinctive sound of a harpsichord.

The Camerata's current concertmaster, Pedro Romero, was the soloist in Mozart's Violin Concerto in G, KV 216. Romero displayed excellent technique and a good sense of Mozartean style; however, his tone never rose above the level of a forte, and the orchestra itself sounded just as subdued.

We were treated to some exquisite playing when the Camerata next tackled Ravel's 'Pavane for a Dead Princess", followed by a George Gershwin 'Lullaby' and finally Gustav Holst's 'Brook Green Suite'. And once again, the same critique applies: the soft playing was fine, but why were the fortes missing? Just as contrasts between light and shade help bring a painting to life, so too do contrasts between loud and soft help enliven a piece of music.

All things considered, I must declare the Camerata's inaugural concert to be a success.

The group showed vision in the broad sweep of its programming; it showed it had a strong sense of historical perspective in the way it continually adjusted the strength of its forces to meet the needs of the period in which the music was written.

We now look forward to the stronger contrasts and the more incisive playing that will surely be forthcoming as the group continues to rehearse and perform together and gain in confidence.

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