MUSIC REVIEW : Soloists Offer Neat but Often Uninspired Program

In other cities, it’s not unusual for the symphony orchestra to present its more accomplished players in chamber music concerts. In Los Angeles, even Andre Previn, the L.A. Philharmonic’s music director, might have keyboard duty at such musical offerings.

The San Diego Symphony, however, has neither music director nor chamber music series, and opportunities to hear its soloists depend upon other local institutions. Sunday afternoon, symphony principal clarinet David Peck, associate principal first violin Karen Dirks, and pianist Edith Orloff played a neatly packaged, if only occasionally inspiring, program at San Diego’s First Presbyterian Church.

For this concert, Dirks exchanged her violin for viola, since there is a small but engaging repertory of works for viola, clarinet and piano. This trio’s reading of Mozart’s “Kegelstatt” Trio, K. 498, rippled along with style, confidence and admirable balance. If the players’ light-hearted sparkle in the concluding rondo movement had surfaced earlier in the piece--or the program, for that matter--it might have been a more memorable concert.

Philip Wilby’s recent composition, “Sonata Sacra: In Darkness Shine,” written for the 1987 San Luis Obispo Mozart Festival, received a welcome local debut. Although the abrasive counterpoint of the opening movement recalled early Schoenberg, the idiom of this young British composer was not disturbingly derivative. The quiet pools of shimmering sound in the sonata’s companion movement invoked the mystical serenity of a Mark Rothko canvas. The trio’s intense concentration and control served the work well.


The program’s opening half languished indulgently in the shoals of Romanticism, piling Robert Schumann’s four “Fairy Tales,” Op. 132, on top of three equally short, saccharine sketches by Max Bruch. It is precisely this sort of claustrophobic salon treacle that caused Gertrude Stein to snarl, “Kill the 19th Century dead!” The level of performance was anything but casual, although Orloff tended to overpower her colleagues in the Schumann, but in the end it amounted to a great deal of fussing over modest musical material.

The program was sponsored by the San Diego Musical Merit Foundation and the Presbyterian church’s concert series.