A spate of springtime activity is keeping followers of the Chamber Music in Historic Sites series on the road. Friday night, the delightful activity was a first Los Angeles appearance by the Quartetto di Venezia in the Doheny Mansion at Mount St. Mary's College downtown.
The ensemble, founded in the early 1990s when its members were still students at the Conservatory Benedetto Marcello in Venice, carries a broad repertory, but on this occasion brought a vivid and provocative program of music by Italian composers only.
Familiar works by Puccini ("I Crisantemi") and Verdi (the E-minor String Quartet) closed the evening in effortless and authoritative performances. Before that, the four Venetians -- violinists Andrea Vio and Alberto Battison, violist Luca Morassutti and cellist Angelo Zanin -- offered Boccherini's Quartet in A, Opus 8, No. 6; Vivaldi's Concerto in G, "La Rustica"; and Antonio Bazzini's seldom-heard Quartet in E-flat.
A virtuoso violinist, Bazzini (1818-1897) was the teacher of Puccini and clearly a gifted composer on his own. This Quartet is more than charming; it is serious and substantial. Among its many beauties is a tuneful and emotionally resonant slow movement, a kaleidoscopically faceted theme and variations.
The Italians gave it a touching, thorough performance, as they did also in aggressive, vigorous readings of the Boccherini and Vivaldi pieces.