Running Hot And Cold
Concerts by the Monterey Symphony and St. Petersburg String Quartet have mixed results.
Thursday, January 25, 2001
But for all the passion, the aloofness iced the teasing phrases and expressive indulgences with a lack of spontaneity. Happily, this was the only shortfall in an otherwise exhilarating presentation. Just ahead of the Sarasate, Fuller gave Hilary Tann''s atmospheric tone poem Here, The Cliffs a fine and polished survey. The work itself, at 10 minutes, suffers only from a lack of soloist identity. In tone poems, the solo instrument usually represents a character; in this case, a traveler-actually a hiker-beholding a dramatic mountain top amphitheater of cliffs and peaks. But Fuller''s violin didn''t seem to have much to do with the moody effects of wind and weather that the composer describes in her program notes. As such, the work might well be envisioned as the slow movement of a concerto, focusing on the solo as pure music, and releasing the colorful orchestral display to a non-programmatic role.
Conductor Kate Tamarkin won a successful reading of Mendelssohn''s Symphony 3 "Scottish" from her orchestra, outlining its handsome themes with boldness and sonority. Only in the fugal episode of the final movement did the violins lose ensemble focus. Strangely, however, the concert-opening Hebrides Overture (by the same composer) failed to achieve either the textural transparency or the oceanic surge that swelled grandly in the symphony itself.
The St. Petersburg String Quartet''s program last week (hosted by the Carmel Music Society) went from hot to tepid as the program unfolded. The youthful ensemble used its virtuosity to good effect in Prokofiev''s Quartet in F, Op92, an intellectual masterstroke read with an intensity that approached ecstasy. The composer''s determination to dazzle came through with tangible force. As rare to hear as it was, selections from Glazunov''s Five Novelettes was rarer still. Despite deliberately limited forces, the music echoed the composer''s symphonic music, colorful, exotic and rich with melody. Effectively, these ingredients called attention to themselves and away from a fairly thin mastery of string quartet writing. Pianist Anton Kuerti displayed an elegant touch and vivid range, from whispers to thunder, in Dvorak''s Piano Quintet in A. But even with an uncommonly smooth blend between the Steinway and the strings, the performance fell short of the expressive fire implicit in its final two movements.
It was widely hailed as one of the most amazing piano recordings ever made. Now decades out of print, Joao Carlos Martins'' legendary 1964 Connoisseur Society recording of Bach''s The Well-Tempered Clavier has reappeared on four CDs. Mail order customers can take advantage of a special price, good till Jan. 31, of $38.94 for the entire collection. (After Jan. 31, the price will jump to $15.98 per disc.)
The Brazil-born Martins was only 25 when he recorded the 48 preludes and fugues, before a debilitating injury derailed his concert career. His playing here surmounts all technical barriers and achieves a vision and grandeur unique unto itself. Reissued for the first time by the original producer, E. Alan Silver, the set can be ordered from Connoisseur Society, c/o In Synch Labs, 2211 Broadway, Ste. 10-E, New York NY 10024. Include $3.75 shipping/handling. No taxes are required. In Synch will also send you the complete Connoisseur Society catalog of outstanding piano recordings. (212) 873-6769.
Jacques Loussier first gained international attention with recordings by his jazz trio of J.S. Bach. That was four decades ago. Suddenly, in 1997, Loussier decided to treat Vivaldi to jazz interpretations, then Erik Satie and Maurice Ravel. Now, on Telarc Jazz, Loussier has taken on Debussy with a success so enchanting that even Debussy might learn to admire it. Such favorites as Clair de lune, Prelude a l''apres-midi d''un faune, Arabesque, Reverie and La Cathedrale engloutie are included.
classical calendarArtaria String Quartet Friday, 8pm. Mozart Society hosts SF Bay Area 18th-century specialists in works of Mozart, Haydn, Boccherini. Sunset Center, San Carlos and 9th, Carmel. $18/General; $5/students. 625-3637.
Odyssey: Bach and The Cello Sunday, 7pm. Carmel Bach Festival hosts actor Timothy West, cellist Raphael Wallfisch, harpsichordist John Butt. Golden Bough Theater, Monte Verde and 8th, Carmel. $35. 624-2046.