Cellist Carter Brey: a Hard Sell to the Southland : Music: The award-winning player has performed here only once since 1984. He will give a recital in Irvine on Sunday.


You might think that a cellist who has won a slew of major awards and competitions and who has made well-received appearances with the chamber music and festival elite would count Southern California conquered territory.

But since making his local recital debut at the Ambassador Auditorium in Pasadena in 1984, Carter Brey has been back around here only once, and then it was with the Tokyo String Quartet. The closest he has come in recent years has been Tucson and Palm Desert, where he accompanied Hugh Wolff and the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, playing the Shostakovich First Cello Concerto and the Schumann Concerto on tour.

"I've never been very popular with management and presenters in your area," he says. "What can I tell you? There's no accounting for taste."

Sunday afternoon, however, he will be in our area, in a recital at the Irvine Barclay Theatre sponsored by the Orange County Philharmonic Society.

Brey is no longer performing with Roberta Weintraub, the pianist with whom he won the Munich Competition for Duos in 1978 and made that debut in Pasadena eight years ago. This time around, he comes with pianist Christopher O'Riley.

The current trend for duo recitals--pairing equals in chamber music fashion, rather than the old star-with-accompanist packages so misleadingly called "solo" recitals--makes sense on many levels, he says.

"There seems to be a change of consciousness," Brey said on the phone from his new home in New York. "There'll always be a place for the virtuoso recital, but it's more interesting to collaborate with fully formed soloists, quirky in their own right--more an exchange of ideas rather than a dictation of ideas."

The program Brey and O'Riley have planned for Sunday is a distinctive one, not just in the pieces chosen but also in the order. It will begin with Beethoven's Sonata in D, Opus 102, No. 2, and the Sonata for Cello and Piano by Kenneth Frazelle. They follow that with Schumann's "Five Pieces in Folk Style," Opus 102, and Mendelssohn's Sonata in D, Opus 58.

"It is an unusual order," Brey agreed. "I think the way we build a program is not to find some chronological logic, but to look at the way the pieces interact in a kind of dramatic progression. We liked the immediacy of the opening of the Beethoven. The Frazelle seemed to be the logical piece to lead to intermission." The Beethoven and Frazelle sonatas "relate to each other in the way they move to their center movements.

"Often," he continued, "the 'new' piece on the program is shuffled off to a less central spot, but we wanted to make it a highlight. The first half of the program is more intellectual--Ken's piece is densely contrapuntal, like the Beethoven, and it's second movement is a huge spiritual center.

"Finally," Brey added with a laugh, "Frazelle ends on a more relaxed kind of flurry of notes in fiddle style. It goes out with a big bang."

The second half of the program, by contrast, is "more like two composers who were close friends, knew each other's work and came from the same direction."

Although Brey took home a prize from the first Rostropovich International Cello Competition and subsequently played the Schumann Concerto with Rostropovich and the National Symphony, he has made a deliberate effort to avoid the long shadow of the acclaimed cellist.

"Rostropovich was a mentor for a few years," Brey said, "but he's a kind of overpowering presence for cellists in general. I made a conscious decision not to study too closely with him, for fear that I'd become another poor Rostropovich imitation rather than a really great Carter Brey."

After acknowledging his teachers Laurence Lesser and Aldo Parisot, Brey said some of the main influences on his playing have been pianists, naming Artur Schnabel, Glenn Gould, Murray Perahia and Richard Goode.

And, of course, his partner O'Riley.

"Pianists tend to be the best thinkers among musicians, and they are the beneficiaries of the richest repertory," Brey said. "Chris is someone who comes from other sources than I, and he is a constant stimulation, because we don't always agree. Some nights we may do things one way, the next night another."

Cellist Carter Brey and pianist Christopher O'Riley will play chamber music Sunday at 3 p.m. at the Irvine Barclay Theatre, 4242 Campus Drive, Irvine. The program is being sponsored by the Orange County Philharmonic Society. Tickets: $10 to $20. Information: (714) 854-4646.

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