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MUSIC REVIEWS : Enterprising Concert From Southwest Society

The Southwest Chamber Music Society, consisting this time of violinists Peter Marsh and Sheryl Staples, violist Jan Karlin, cellist Roger Lebow and flutist Dorothy Stone, played music by Silvestre Revueltas, Walter Piston and Antonin Dvorak on Thursday night before an enthusiastic audience in Salmon Recital Hall at Chapman University.

The concert began with Revueltas’ brilliant fourth string quartet, “Musica de Feria” (Music of the Fair). Written in 1932, the eight-minute melange of colorful dissonance, surging cowboy-flavored melody and ethereal harmonics is so rhythmically rich and exuberant and so masterfully written, with big solos for Karlin and Lebow, that it made a stunning overture.

Walter Piston’s Flute Quintet from 1942 fared less well, in part because its conservative, if noble, well-constructed language paled after Revueltas, because neither Stone nor Marsh took the lead in giving the music the character and emotional range it needs to assert itself, and because the ensemble lacked the knife-edge virtuosity that the work demands.

After intermission, the four string players returned to dust the cobwebs off Dvorak’s warhorse “American” Quartet with a vital, athletic performance that, aside from a disoriented reading of the scherzo, let itself be carried away by the rustic high spirits while refreshingly resisting Dvorak’s occasionally droopy sentiment.

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Although the playing was clearly led by first violinist Marsh, who, despite his many years of service, remains a totally committed, expert and excitable musician, equally important contributions were made by his partners. Staples in particular showed herself to be a fine powerhouse of a second violinist, while Lebow played the big solos in the slow movement and Karlin the big solos in the first movement with unusual breadth and beauty.


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