For a new venture, the first of four installments of the Sitka/L.A. Festival of Chamber Music in the Japan America Theatre Thursday night left the impression of efficient organization, distinguished sponsorship and high professional standards.
The organization can be attributed to Yukiko Kamei, the artistic director, the sponsorship to the Chamber Music Society of Los Angeles and affiliated groups, the invigorating performances to a uniformly able group of musicians, many of whom had at one time or another studied with Gregor Piatigorsky and Jascha Heifetz. The series is intended to honor the memory of Piatigorsky and the 85th birthday of Heifetz.
An idea of what can be expected of the festival was immediately demonstrated by a string quartet consisting of Kamei and Ik-Hwan Bae, violins; Milton Thomas, viola, and Jeffrey Solow, cello. They played the Quartet in G, Opus 3, No. 3, attributed to Haydn, but which may have been written by a Bavarian monk named Roman Hofstetter. In any case, the music seethes and froths with high spirits, and it was played with sharply attuned ensemble and crisp rhythms.
The name of the Alsatian-born Charles Martin Loeffler once loomed large as an important American composer; today, both his name and his music are forgotten. The resurrection of Loeffler's two Rhapsodies for oboe, viola and piano, however, was more than a pious act of charity. The music has melodic and harmonic character, it creates and sustains specific moods, and, as warmly played by Allan Vogel (oboe), Thomas (viola) and Doris Stevenson (piano), it was rewarding for both performers and listeners.
The novelty of the occasion, Paul Chihara's "Ceremony 1," brought on stage enough percussion instruments to open a well-stocked store, in addition to two cellos, oboe and double bass. This odd instrumentation, however, was not employed for gaudy ends but to create subtly designed textures and touches of color more on the order of background material than aggressively intended concert music.
The busy percussionist was David Johnson, Buell Neidlinger played the contrabass, Vogel the oboe, and the competing cellists were Solow and Nathaniel Rosen.
An exuberant version of Schumann's great Piano Quintet in E-flat, Opus 44, brought the large audience to its feet with well-earned cheers for Stevenson, Bae, Kamei, Thomas and Rosen.