MUSIC REVIEW : Grand End to Chamber Fest

Chamber Music/LA Festival ended its eighth season, Sunday afternoon at the Japan America Theatre, with a program that showcased its commitment to exploring lesser-known glories of the traditional chamber music literature.

The highlight was Dvorak's Opus 97 Quintet in E-flat, in which Yukiko Kamei was joined by fellow violinist Christiaan Bor, violists Marcus Thompson and Milton Thomas, and cellist Jeffrey Solow. The performance consisted of technically secure playing illuminated by sudden moments of musical insight and occasionally let down by indifferent intonation.

Although the interpretation opted legitimately for a civilized middle ground between the extremes of Dvorak's rapt melodic beauty and his rustic Bohemian riffs, the five players did achieve a profound depth of sound, unusual even for seasoned ensembles, at the radiantly spiritual close of the third movement. At the concert's end, the infectious high spirits of the finale had the audience on its feet.

The concert began with a performance of Mozart's Clarinet Trio, K.498, that emphasized the music's sultry erotic character when it was not falling asleep from sheer mellowness. The work being an exceptionally clever study in contrasts of timbre and energy, the combination of Neidich's woody clarinet, Thompson's dusky viola and Auer's patrician Hamburg Steinway made a perfect foil to the more obscure, and more impassioned poetry of Robert Schumann's Opus 63 Piano Trio, which followed.

Unfortunately, the Schumann received the least satisfactory performance. Next to Kamei's elegance and purity, Auer sounded pedestrian and Solow undernourished.

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