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California Summer Music Students in Concert

July 26, 2003

On Saturday July 26 California Summer Music presented its next-to-last-day student concert in the Stevenson School’s Keck Auditorium featuring four ensemble groups.

The program began with a performance of Ravel’s String Quartet played by violinists Alex Shiozaki and Tema Watstein, violist Todd La Guardia and cellist Shigeko Landin. Although their playing started out on the rough side, it gained in refinement in the third movement, Tr่s rhythm้, where we had an opportunity to hear some lovely playing from each of the musicians. The impassioned fourth movement also brought out the best in the young performers.

The concert continued with the Shostakovich Quartet No. 3, Op. 73. The performers were violinists Andrew Sumitani and Matthew Mouradian, violist Samuel Daunt and cellist Anne Suda. The printed program listed the subtitles for the quartet’s movements written by the Borodin Quartet and approved by Shostakovich, and these added to our understanding of the quartet. The first movement, “Calm unawareness of the future cataclysm,” began with a silly, na๏ve tune but developed increasing intensity by its conclusion. The second movement, “Rumblings of unrest and anticipation,” had some magical moments, especially where the four musicians were playing persistent rhythmic staccatos, like a troubled heartbeat. The third movement, “The forces of war unleashed,” suggested the thumping of heavy marching boots. The fourth movement, “Homage to the dead,” was a moving elegy that seamlessly continued into the final movement, “The eternal question: Why? And for what?” It was this last movement that made the greatest impression as these fine young musicians focused on the pain and irony of the tragedy of war. The quiet ending of this quartet was beautifully performed and was one of the most moving moments in the entire concert.

After intermission we heard the premiere of a short seven-minute work, “Pain, Loss and …(2003)” by composer Narong Prangcharoen, 29, a native of Thailand. The performers were violinists Dagenais Smiley and Jeff Taylor, violist Megan Griffin and cellist Nick Dinnerstein. As a pianist, I have often encountered compositions for piano written by composers who have no skill as a performer at the piano and no understanding or sympathy for the instrument either. Thus, it is a great pleasure to hear a composition for a medium (string quartet) by a composer who obviously loves the medium and composes for it idiomatically. This is an attractive new work, and it is beautifully scored for quartet. It is very economical in using its resources and does not squander them scurrying off in too many directions. It was the focus on the construction of the music itself that impressed me most. This work had something to say and said it effectively. There were no pyrotechnics or gimmicky effects to detract from the message of the music itself. On this occasion it received a brilliant performance that was warmly received.

The concert ended with a splendid performance of the Brahms Piano Trio in C Major, Op. 87, performed by three sisters from Cleveland, pianist Rebecca Harding, violinist Rachel Harding, and cellist Maaike Harding. These three young musicians obviously have been playing a long time together and it shows, for we heard some magnificent ensemble playing in this performance. Violinist Rachel Harding plays with authority and flair (qualities matched by cellist Maaike Harding), and pianist Rebecca Harding, who had the most notes to play during the performance and who can play like a virtuoso, always seemed to find exactly the best ensemble balance during her participation. It doesn’t get much better than this!