San Diego Spotlight : Gruppmans' Soviet Tour Hinges on Peaceful Politics

Violinists Igor and Vesna Gruppman are watching the breakup of the Soviet Union with more than idle curiosity.

Six months ago, Gosconcert, the centralized Soviet arts agency, invited Igor Gruppman, concertmaster of the San Diego Symphony, and Vesna, his Yugoslav-born wife, to perform a series of orchestra concerts and recitals there in December. But what started out as a concert tour of the Soviet Union has become a musical journey to several countries.

Their tour will begin in Igor Gruppman's native city, Kiev, now the capital of the Ukraine. The duo will continue to Moscow, St. Petersburg (formerly Leningrad) and will end up in Talinn, Estonia. Despite the Soviet Union's recent political instability, the tour was intact as of last week, according to Igor Gruppman.

Local audiences can get a taste of the Gruppmans' tour recital program by attending Monday's noon concert at the La Jolla Athenaeum. Accompanied by Yugoslav pianist Mira Yevtich, who will perform with the violin duo on their December tour, they will play sonatas for two violins by Handel and 20th-Century Czech composer Bohuslav Martinu. Yevtich will play Mussorgsky's piano solo "Pictures at an Exhibition."

In Russia, the three musicians will make a compact disc of their ensemble pieces for a joint recording project of Meloydia and MCA Records.

Igor Gruppman explained that three years ago he re-encountered Yevtich, with whom he and Vesna had studied at the Moscow Conservatory, over the phone while negotiating with Russian performers for the San Diego Soviet arts festival. The Gruppmans defected from the Soviet Union in 1979, and their upcoming tour will mark their second return to the society they left for the United States.

A rose by any other name. In an effort to comply with truth-in-advertising regulations, the West Coast Lyric Opera has changed its name to West Coast Lyric Works.

Artistic director Anne Young explained that, because her organization presents more recitals of young opera singers than it mounts actual opera productions, the new name is intended to remove confusion. (Though the root meaning of "opera" is "works," the new name still has an odd ring to it.)

In any case, the enterprising organization will present baritone Michel (Mic) Bell in a solo recital Sept. 22 at 4 p.m. at La Jolla's St. James Episcopal Church. Bell appeared earlier this year in San Diego Opera's production of Carlisle Floyd's "The Passion of Jonathan Wade" and in the Houston Grand Opera touring production of Gershwin's "Porgy and Bess" in 1987. He is scheduled to sing the bass solo in the San Diego Symphony's Mozart "Requiem" this December.

For the West Coast Lyric Works recital, Bell will be accompanied by pianist Catherine Matejka.

Early music feast. This year the San Diego Early Music Society celebrates its first decade of presenting early music ensembles. The Scholars of London, a vocal ensemble noted for its performance of Renaissance polyphony, opens the five-concert season Oct. 18.

Dutch cellist Amner Bylsma follows the British singers with a solo recital of Baroque music Oct. 31. The Loeki Stardust Quartet from Amsterdam, a recorder ensemble that pleased local audiences when it appeared here in 1989, returns on Feb. 23.

Cheryl Ann Fulton, medieval harp player, will be joined by mezzo-soprano Karen Clark Young and countertenor Allan Fast in a program of medieval French secular music March 8. San Francisco's Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra under the baton of Nicholas McGegan will close the series with a concert of Corelli, Handel and Vivaldi on March 28. All of the series concerts will be given at La Jolla's St. James Episcopal Church at 8 p.m.

As a coda to the series, the Early Music Society will present Live Oak, a trio of Boston musicians, in a program called "Mystics and Music in Spain, 1150-1550" on May 2 at La Jolla's First Congregational Church. Information about the society and its concerts: 291-8246.

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