Putting together a musical program of any appreciable length for performance requires a reasonable amount of thought as to presentation — the material presented must be neither too long nor too short, must be balanced enough as to lend an agreeable amount of time for audience absorbing, and above all, must never be boring. The three presentations at Idyllwild Arts’ Stephens Recital Hall provided ample evidence of this kind of thought process, even though some of the proceedings fared better than others.
Last Wednesday’s program (which, unfortunately, this reviewer could not attend due to a previous commitment) was a prime example of balance aforethought — Beethoven’s “D Major Violin Sonata,” Bartok’s “Contrasts” for violin, clarinet and piano, and Brahms’ “G Minor Piano Quartet,” in succession (with intermission between the second and third works) provided ample opportunity for enjoyment of both players (generally members of the Pacific Trio) and listeners alike. This was not quite as obvious in the Pacific Trio’s second presentation on Saturday evening, with a program of Brahms’ “G Major Sextet,” effecting an overload in the first part (following another genial analysis by Rich Capparella), and necessitating a longer intermission than usual in preparing for the next two programmed items.
Fortunately, the lighter moods of those two provided relief from the heaviness of the Brahms, even though the composer’s intentions were well carried across by the violin, viola and cello pairings, and the remainder of the evening proved to be a falling-away rather than a letdown. Preceding the playing of Francis Poulenc’s “Cello Sonata,” soloist John Walz provided an anecdote of his teacher Pierre Fournier’s characterization of the piece as “not friendly to the cello.” Walz proved that statement’s contrary, as his account of the four movements gave out all the good humor that is part and parcel of the composer’s usual output — from the Parisian music hall to the mock seriousness of his post-World War II efforts.
Following that exhibition, the suite of themes from George Gershwin’s “Porgy and Bess” was most effective, with both Walz and violinist Roger Wilkie providing the main melodic lines with the lyrics in mind (as should be typical for maximum theatrical effect). Nor should the efforts of pianist Edith Orloff be neglected (in both the Poulenc as well as the Gershwin); admirable in both embellishing melodies as well as in her accompanist’s mode.
In between those two concerts, the summer faculty of Idyllwild Arts provided general examples of their talents on Friday evening, though the overall effect of skewing the performance toward the end items was present, somewhat to the detriment of the performers themselves, as they allowed for a general drive to that end. The selections of short pieces did not make up for that thrust, however virtuosic in intent; and in general, the effect was a push toward the end without any relief, even with such exemplary oboe playing of two of Carl Nielsen’s “Fantasy Pieces” by Ted Sugata and equally admirable piano accompaniments by Clara Cheng and Jeanette Louise Yaryan.
Virtuosity of the superlative kind, however, was reached before the final two items on the program by violinist Pasha Tseitlin, whose solo accounting of the Ernst etude (theme and variations on “The Last Rose of Summer”) was a marvel of technical effects; multiple stoppings, left-handed pizzicatos and such were virtually flawless in execution, and the audience rose to its feet in general approbation at its conclusion.
Tseitlin returned as first violinist in the final item, the also rarely heard “Terzetto” for two violins and viola of Antonin Dvorak, and as speedily a rate as its four movements go, it, too, showed marvelous effects in both bowing and harmonic techniques on the part of all participants.
In between the last-mentioned works, the vocal talent of Olga Perez was once again put forward; and though not so spectacular as her last season’s display (with the “Habanera” from Bizet’s “Carmen”), the short aria of Charlotte in Massenet’s “Werther” still did provide ample enough evidence of vocal ability and power.
Coming up — the third in this summer’s program of chamber music in Idyllwild, this Thursday at 8 p.m. in Stephens Recital Hall, with more of the Pacific Trio’s virtuosity and eclectic programming on display.