MUSIC REVIEW : Chamber Festival Concludes With Brahms Quintet at Japan America

It should surprise no one that this year’s Chamber Music/LA Festival ended with a work by Brahms, one of only two composers who have been represented on every one of the festival’s programs in these five seasons--the other is Beethoven--and the object of last year’s affair.

At the Japan America Theatre on Sunday, violinists Christiaan Bor and Yukiko Kamei, violist Milton Thomas, cellist Jeffrey Solow and pianist Doris Stevenson closed the program with an energized, often passionate reading of Brahms’ mighty Quintet in F minor, Opus 34. Unfortunately, neither Bor nor Stevenson exercised real leadership, and ragged ensemble often sullied the performance.

As in the previous four concerts, this program included the local premiere of a recent work by a Japanese composer. The melodic material in Maki Ishii’s “A Gleam of Time” for solo harp begins engagingly, presenting a simple four-note motive that functions as an ostinato over which other material is laid.

The two sections that follow explore the dynamic and timbral possibilities of the instrument, first by conventional methods, then by contemporary techniques such as knocking on the body of the harp, which in this context sounded out of place.


On the whole, however, Ishii effectively capitalized on the harp’s capabilities, and one wished that the work--just under 10 minutes in duration--could have lasted longer. Harpist Ayako Shinozaki was the protagonist.

Shinozaki also seconded Kamei in an expressive, albeit not always fluid, account of Saint-Saens’ Fantasy for violin and harp.

To open the proceedings, Bor, Kamei, Thomas and Solow brought energy and spirit, but little melodic shape, to Schubert’s “Quartettsatz” in C minor.