In a class with writing an encyclopedia or climbing Mt. Everest, starting a string quartet must be one of the most challenging of human activities. Yet, with that wonderful and indispensable resource, optimism, as a fuel, many set out to do just that every year.
Last fall, four youngish Southern California-based musicians took up the challenge. Kathleen Lenski, Roger Wilkie, Brian Denbow and Stephen Erdody are their names, and the name of their new string quartet is Angeles.
"Yes, we are very aware of our predecessors on the L.A. scene," said Lenski, on the phone last week from Eugene, Ore., where she was a principal at the Oregon Bach Festival. "The (now-defunct) Hollywood and Los Angeles quartets are ensembles we have heard a lot about."
And yet these four players, with numerous ensemble and orchestral credits behind them, "are tremendously excited about our prospects," Lenski said.
The first violinist holds the post of concertmaster of the Long Beach Symphony, and has recently been appointed one of two permanent concertmasters of the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra. Juilliard graduates Denbow and Erdody were founding members of the disbanded New York String Quartet, and are on the roster of the Pacific Symphony. Wilkie, 27, was trained at Cal State Northridge, has played with the California Chamber Virtuosi and is now a member of L.A. Chamber Orchestra.
As an ad-hoc ensemble, the Angeles Quartet made its first appearance on the California Chamber Virtuosi series, last fall. After a hiatus, during which violinist Wilkie spent three months on a job in Canada, the group gathered again, this spring. Two residencies in Texas (at the Round Top Festival and in El Paso) precede its July 17 debut appearance at Gindi Auditorium at the University of Judaism.
"The first time we sat down together, we felt something special was happening," Lenski said. "Something creative. We adjusted immediately to each other, found we could make changes instantaneously. Our senses of pitch, it seems, are similar, our vibratos match, we all like working hard, and we seem to enjoy the work. Maybe it's too early to tell, but we seem to have everything going for us."
Not least of the ensemble's assets is its association, almost from the beginning, with manager Carol Cunning, who seems to be as serious as the players about their formation as a group. "Because of having management from the start," Lenski said, "we may not have to struggle as much as other ensembles."
A number of out-of-town engagements--"not all firm," the violinist said--dot the group's calendar in the coming months. Its next local appearances will be spring concerts on a chamber series at UC Irvine, and on the UCLA series masterminded by pianist Mona Golabek, in mid-April, 1989, when Golabek/Angeles will play Schumann's Piano Quintet.
NEW WORLD FEST: The first two of seven events mark the opening of the New World Music Festival in Orange County this week. To be performed at the Orange County Performing Arts Center in Costa Mesa and on the campus of UC Irvine, these seven performances are sponsored by the Orange County Philharmonic Society, by UC Irvine and by the center. Ensembles from the year-old, Miami-based New World Symphony, and the orchestra's artistic adviser, conductor/pianist Michael Tilson Thomas, will open the series, Monday night at 8 in Village Theater at UC Irvine. Thursday night in Segerstrom Hall, Tilson Thomas will lead the New World Symphony in its West Coast debut performance. His program comprises Janacek's Sinfonietta, the Konzertstuck in F minor by Weber and Bartok's Concerto for Orchestra. Subsequent series events are an orchestral program featuring Mahler's "Das Klagende Lied," July 5; more chamber music concerts, July 7 and 14, and two center concerts by the New World Symphony, with Eduardo Mata conducting, July 12 and 16.
PEOPLE: Michael Kibbe of North Hollywood is the winner of the National Assn. of Composers, USA, national competition. Kibbe's Trio for harp, flute and viola took the $750 first prize; co-sponsor of the competition was the Los Angeles-based Debussy Trio (Marcia Dickstein, Angela Schmidt and Christopher Redfield). . . . Patrick Flynn, music director and conductor of the Pueblo, Colo., Symphony, has been named music director of the Riverside Symphony. Simultaneously, the Riverside orchestra announced its reorganization as a county orchestra and the establishment of a second concert series in the new McCallum Theater in Palm Desert. The 1988-89 season begins Nov. 5 in Riverside, with a repeat of that performance, Nov. 7 in Palm Desert.