A glorious venue for masterworks

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    For those who cannot afford the high prices now announced for Disney Hall, the new home of the Los Angeles Philharmonic that will be opening next season, there is an affordable alternative in concerts presented by the St. Matthew’s Chamber Orchestra in Pacific Palisades. For $20, paid to the St. Matthew’s Music Guild, one can hear music played brilliantly in a venue almost as daring, in its way, as the Frank Gehry structure downtown.

    St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church is unlike other churches in many ways-modern and majestic with a wooden interior offering a wonderful acoustical venue.

    The chamber ensemble is fortunate to have as its conductor Thomas Neenan, who has been providing delightful evenings for many years. The new season opened last Friday night with a program of works by Handel, Mozart and Beethoven. Not too shabby.

    The overture to “Saul” by Handel, with Roger Daggy performing nobly on the church’s superb organ, was a grand introduction to the other two works. Robert Edward Thies, a talented young pianist, was the soloist for Mozart’s lovely Piano Concerto No. 17 in G. Major, playing with passion and panache.

    The highlight of the evening was the performance of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 3 in E flat major. The dramatic music resonated through the church as each section conveyed the drama and the intensity of this masterwork. This chamber group showed it could compete with the big boys.

    The Music Guild series offers several bonuses, including free parking, hot cider and cookies at intermission and program notes by Kimberlea Daggy that are simple and understandable. The next concert is scheduled for Friday, Nov. 15 at 8 p.m.