MASTIK WITH SEQUOIA QUARTET
There were the makings for a major musical event Wednesday night at the County Museum of Art--a new season, interesting performers and a full house in Bing Theater. The audience certainly tried hard, applauding everything, including individual movements.
Alas, the performances were trying in a different sense. Czech guitarist Martin Mastik reportedly studied early music in London, but there was no stylistic awareness, or even affection, in his playing of two common Scarlatti sonatas and a Dowland Fantasie. Leaden tempos, a lack of embellishment, and numerous mistakes in simple passages characterized Mastik’s accounts.
In representing Bach with the Prelude and Fugue from the Cello Suite, BWV 1011, Mastik showed some individuality.
Mastik arranged the solo portion of his program in simple chronological order. The introduction of Sor’s Grand Solo drew his finest playing to that point, but with a sedate tempo and more left-hand errors, only the banalities emerged clearly from the body of the work.
Mastik is noted for contemporary Eastern European repertory, and with good reason. He was an entirely different player--dramatic, purposeful and intensely involved--in Czech Stepan Rak’s Variations and Russian Nikita Koshkin’s “Three Stations on the Road.’
Rak’s Variations are a pleasant, neo-modal set on an old Czech song. Mastik still missed some shifts, but his playing now had a refreshing fluency and conviction.
The influence of American jazz on contemporary Russian musicians should not be underestimated. “Three Stations” flirted with cocktail lounge cliches, but a combination of naivete and sly parody kept it buoyant and absorbing, abetted by Mastik’s supple performance.
The Sequoia Quartet joined Mastik in the Vivaldi Concerto and the Boccherini Quintet. The routine repertory brought all of Mastik’s previous problems to the fore.
These works introduced Sequoia’s new member, cellist Bonnie Hampton. She provided an assured, resonant bass line in the Concerto, which was disrupted by Mastik repeating a bar of the Largo while the others stopped, and first violinist Peter Marsh making a premature entrance in the Finale.
The cellist gets unusual chores in the Fandango of the Quintet. Hampton tapped out crude improvised rhythms on orchestral castanets, and contributed snazzy glissandos. She stumbled in some of Boccherini’s high-flying solo lines, but in the Fandango her bouncing bow supplied the rhythmic drive that Mastik was unable to deliver with appropriate rasqueado.
Characteristic of the evening, the uncredited program notes were a farago of misinformation.