In this delightful and well-chosen program, the Santa Barbara Chamber Orchestra offered a demonstration of the things it does best. The opening piece, Robert Schumann’s Symphony No. 4 in D Minor, Op. 120, contains a pair of great duets for cello and oboe, and a memorable violin solo, all of which benefited from the chamber orchestra’s univocal approach to ensemble work. The second work, the Overture to A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Op. 21 of Felix Mendelssohn, put maestro Ohyama and his energetic sense of rhythm to the fore as the group bounced playfully through such familiar music as Bottom’s theme.
The climax of the night came after intermission with the 1919 version of Igor Stravinsky’s Firebird Suite, in which all the sections played key roles. For the winds, it was another chance to lift the oboe into prominence, this time against a characteristic Stravinsky backdrop of bittersweet harmonics. For the strings, the forceful statements of the brass and percussion during the movement labeled “Infernal Dance” demanded precision, color, and clarity. Overall, this was an auspicious beginning to what promises to be another excellent season for this distinguished group of musicians.