The New Year did not begin with much of a musical bang on Sunday afternoon at Van Nuys Junior High School. Cellist Peter Rejto offered a Community Concert recital characterized largely by cautious respectability.
Put it down to holiday surfeit, perhaps, or the acoustically and atmospherically stuffy auditorium. Whatever the causes, the results were curiously inert.
The level of compelling passion and musically pointed drama in the stock program did rise throughout, though it was a case of too little, too late. After intermission, Rejto brought a welcome freedom to Beethoven's Sonata in G minor, Opus 5, No. 2. His account of Ginastera's "Pampeana" No. 2 stressed its brooding aspect rather than the macho athleticism, but sounded nonetheless committed and convincing.
The cellist, who teaches at Cal State Northridge, began with an aloof, politely embellished performance of a Boccherini Sonata in A. From there he essayed Schumann's Opus 73 "Phantasiestucke" with everything but fantasy. He proved impressively secure in Shostakovich's demanding multifaceted Sonata, without making persuasive structural connections.
Part of the problem on the first half lay in the accompaniment. Chinese pianist Bin Wang, a CalArts alumna, seemed to play neatly enough, except in the third Schumann piece. But her thin-toned baby grand was sited behind the proscenium with the lid down, while Rejto sat out in front, and her efforts became more than vaguely heard background only in the bristling final movement of the Shostakovich.
After the break the lid was raised, and the increased clarity and presence of the piano part contributed to the outgoing fluidity of the Beethoven.
A cordial, though hardly acclamatory, reception elicited a Bach transcription in encore.