Music Reviews : Marlboro Musicians Close Laguna Chamber Season


Given the evidence of the performance that closed the 29th season of the Laguna Beach Chamber Music Society, the emergence onto the professional stage of the current Musicians from Marlboro may be a bit premature.

The latest crop of youngsters touring under that name--all supposedly having attended Rudolf Serkin’s annual summer Marlboro Festival in Vermont--again ranges from four to nine artists in various combinations. The 1989 tour group reached the auditorium at Laguna Beach High School Tuesday night.

The musicians--who were grouped as a string trio, a string quintet and a clarinet quintet--played unstylish and indeed unfinished performances of music by Beethoven, Weber and Mozart.


The playing was characterized by aggressive, harsh and forced attacks, recurrent pitch problems and a general lack of ideas.

Weber’s Quintet in B-flat for clarinet and strings began promisingly, with a sensitive halo of string tone from violinists Todd Phillips and Christian Tetzlaff, violist Christof Huebner and cellist Peter Wiley. But it was roughly interrupted by the loud entrance of clarinetist Daniel McKelway.

Thereafter McKelway had problems in control of breath and dynamics, regularly overwhelming the strings, losing roundness of tone at extremes and rarely tracing expressive or elegant lines. The strings often seemed to inhabit a different, more restrained stylistic world.

Mozart’s Quintet in G minor arguably was the most successful work on the program, with Tetzlaff moving from second into first violin position.

In his new role, Tetzlaff contributed some delicacy of line, warmth and lyricism, but the tone often remained thin and edgy. However, the others--Phillips, violist Steven Tenenbom, Huebner and Wiley--rarely became equal partners. There was an overall lack of character, charm or sweetness. Even the foreboding opening of the final movement somehow emerged sounding closer in style to Pachelbel than to Mozart.

The concert opened with a tense, nervous account of Beethoven’s Trio in C minor, played without refinement of tone or singing line by Phillips, Tenenbom and Wiley.