The 1988 Chamber Music/LA Festival is several things, all of them worth noting: A convocation of Pacific Rim--and Eastern Shore--musicians; a tribute to the late Jascha Heifetz; a celebration of the violin. And, Thursday night, at the second event in the five-concert series, Chamber Music/LA turned into a little Russian festival.
A charming one, too. Works by Stravinsky, Arensky and Tchaikovsky--the Suite Italienne in its incarnation for violin and cello, the Piano Trio in D minor and the String Sextet, "Souvenir de Florence"--made up the program and received intense and detailed performances by eight of the musicians on the 1988 roster.
At a festival dedicated to the memory of Heifetz, one has every right to expect some first-class fiddle playing. On Thursday, this was provided in abundance by Eudice Shapiro, Christiaan Bor and Yukiko Kamei (Kamei is for the third year artistic director of this series).
In the sextet, Shapiro presided with authority and brilliance, and shaped--with Kamei, violists Walter Trampler and Milton Thomas and cellists Nathaniel Rosen and Evan Drachman--a luminous, controlled performance, not the least virtue of which was that all the players seemed to be enjoying themselves. Tchaikovsky does not always have it so good, or so resonant.
The principal strength of the reading given Arensky's demanding and melodious Opus 32 was the solidity of the ensemble, the three players' apparently intuitive sense of each other.
Here were three leaders--pianist Ayke Agus, violinist Bor and cellist Rosen--working in cooperation, with no false modesty to cloud musical issues. Agus, exceptionally fluent, graceful and accurate at the keyboard, is the sort of apparently easygoing, technically whiz-bang pianist that other pianists talk about with awe. What a shame there was no information at all about her in the skimpy, single-page program sheet.
The evening opened with Gregor Piatigorsky's exigent arrangement, for violin and cello virtuosos, of the Suite Italienne. After some initial problems of adjustment to the room, Shapiro and Rosen tore into the beloved score gamely and eloquently.