MUSIC REVIEW : Young Stars Rise at SummerFest


If the musicianship of the upcoming generation of chamber music players is anything like that of the 10 young performers featured in Thursday evening’s SummerFest ’91 concert, uncork the Champagne now and celebrate.

To culminate two weeks’ study with senior members of SummerFest, these young “rising stars”--the designation SummerFest gives its resident students--performed Brahms and Bartok with conviction, authority and laudable technical prowess. Each of the three ensembles on the Sherwood Auditorium program was anchored by a seasoned professional, yet there was no blatant gap between mentor and students. They may be rising “stars,” but these young musicians demonstrated the cardinal virtue of chamber music: team playing.

A tightly wound, yet deftly balanced performance of Brahms’ C Minor Piano Quartet, Op. 60, set the standard for the evening. All of the work’s urgency and angst poured forth without indulgence. Violist Toby Hoffman, a SummerFest veteran, used his dark, assertive timbre to fuse the other strings, violinist Sheryl Staples and cellist Kristen Ostling. Staples’ clean, decisive lines matched Hoffman’s self-possessed profile. Although pianist Max Levinson grasped the demanding keyboard part securely, he did not give the strings the subtle accompaniment they deserved in the softest passages.


Bela Bartok’s “Contrasts” for Clarinet, Violin and Piano benefitted from David Golub’s masterful realization of the piano part. Golub coaxed deep, resonant tones from his instrument, providing the perfect foil for the fiery, ironic declamation from violinist Jennifer Frautschi and clarinetist Lee Livengood. Livengood’s seamless, although overly monochromatic line met the composer’s requirements, but Frautschi’s assured, vibrant playing made the performance memorable.

Brahms’ effulgent Sextet in B-flat Major, Op. 18, may be too much of a good thing, but the SummerFest players took its expansive rhetoric in stride, dispensing equal doses of mellifluous lyricism and passionate exposition. Notable among the six strings were first violinist Ayako Yoshida, whose keen sense of drama propelled the work, and cellist Gary Hoffman, whose shapely, booming bass undergirded it. The ensemble included violinist Laura Frautschi, violists Larry Neuman and Michael Strauss and cellist Ursula Smith.