Although he plays Baroque music on an authentic Baroque violin, Sergiu Luca takes exception to the label of Baroque violinist . "If I'm to be called any kind of an expert," he says, "then I'm afraid I have little to back that up. I am simply a violinist who plays in a variety of styles."
The Romanian-born musician will appear in a traversal of Bach's works for solo violin under sponsorship of the Da Camera Society on Tuesday at the Park Plaza Hotel and next Sunday in a sold-out appearance in the Qvale House. During a phone conversation from his Houston home, Luca pushes aside the question of authenticity, stating simply, "Instruments don't make it right--the performers make it right."
His reasons for using a period violin are quite pragmatic, he insists. "The music is easier to play, if you're trying to play in the style of that period. It's more resonant, more responsive. And the (curved) bows are constructed so that articulation and nuance are easier to achieve." The quieter sound, then, doesn't bother him? Quite the contrary.
"Your attacks (with the bow) are much less harsh, so you can play with greater strength. The instrument was made to be pushed to its limit. If you pushed a modern violin the same way, it wouldn't sound right. So, really, I can be much more natural in my playing."
Luca speaks pridefully of his violin, an instrument that had been lost for about two centuries. "It was made in 1733 by Sanctus Serafin, a true Italian master. It was brought to England in the late 1780s and stored off in a corner of a warehouse. I happen to know the people who owned it, and they were generous enough to allow me to acquire it about three years ago.
"I'll always remember the moment when I took it out of the case and played it. 'You're the first person to play that in 200 years,' they said. It gave me a chill. All the old instruments were modernized and upgraded in the 1800s--new fingerboards were put on, new pegs. So, really, this is the only major instrument of the Italian school to remain in its original form. Even the pegs were the same.
"The sound is tremendous--lush and full." And the feeling of playing Bach? "It's such a joy on any instrument playing his unaccompanied music. What a fabulous feeling to be able to control matters entirely yourself."
AT THE PHILHARMONIC: English conductor Sir Charles Groves leads the Los Angeles Philharmonic in a mostly unhackneyed program at the Music Center this week. The Concerto for double string orchestra by Groves' countryman, Sir Michael Tippett, and Samuel Barber's Violin Concerto--both works dating from the late '30s--will share the bill with Brahms' Symphony No. 2. Concertmaster Sidney Weiss will be soloist in the Barber.
In another Philharmonic event, the New Music Group, led by Neal Stulberg, will present a concert titled "New York: Uptown/Downtown" Monday in the Japan America Theatre as the closing event in the CalArts Contemporary Music Festival. The program includes music by New York composers Steve Reich, Matthias Kriesberg (piano soloist in his "a3520"), Tom Johnson, Charles Wuorinen (on hand to conduct his "New York Notes") and Joan Tower (the West Coast premiere of her "Noon Dance"). Philharmonic principal Dennis Trembly will be soloist in Johnson's "Failing (A Very Difficult Piece for Solo Bass)."
VISITING ORCHESTRAS: Two small orchestras from Europe and one big one from the Middle East will visit the Los Angeles area this week.
Zubin Mehta will lead the Israel Philharmonic in the orchestras first Music Center concerts this week, under sponsorship of the Los Angeles Philharmonic. On Saturday, the program lists Mahler's Symphony No. 1, Saint-Saens' Violin Concerto No. 3 (with concertmaster Uri Pianka as soloist) and Josef Tal's Symphony No. 2. The following night, the program includes Tchaikovsky's "Pathetique" Symphony, Bach's "Brandenburg" Concerto No. 3 and Ginastera's Harp Concerto (with principal harpist Judith Liber).
On Thursday, the Mozarteum Orchestra of Salzburg, resident ensemble at that city's fabled summer festival, will make its West Coast debut in Ambassador Auditorium. The program, led by Hans Graf, is devoted to music of--surprise--Mozart: a divertimento (K. 136), a piano concerto (the mighty D-minor, with Homero Francesch as soloist) and a symphony (No. 38, the "Prague"). The same program will be presented next Sunday in Marsee Auditorium, El Camino College.
The Munich Chamber Orchestra, conducted by Hans Stadlmair, will appear in Royce Hall, UCLA, on Saturday night. The program lists works by Michael Haydn (a notturno), Bach (a ricercare from "The Musical Offering"), Mozart (the Symphony No. 29 and Violin Concerto No. 3 with Young Uck Kim as soloist) and the contemporary German composer Wilhelm Killmayer ("Fin'al punto," written in 1970).
BALLET THEATRE WEEK II: Two premieres are included in the middle week of American Ballet Theatre's three-week Shrine Auditorium engagement. Tuesday night, Kenneth MacMillan's "Anastasia" Act III will receive its company premiere (notice that isn't local company premiere: the Tuesday performance is, in fact, the company's first). Cynthia Gregory and Ross Stretton will dance the principal roles on Tuesday and again on Thursday. On Wednesday, Martine van Hamel and Clark Tippet are scheduled to appear.
Also on Wednesday, and again Friday night, Ballet Theatre principal dancer Fernando Bujones will make his local choreographic debut with "Grand Pas Romantique," set to music by Adolph Adam. Marianna Tcherkassky and Danilo Radojevic will dance both nights.
The four performances Saturday and next Sunday consist of repeats of MacMillan's "Romeo and Juliet," danced by four different Romeos and an equal number of Juliets.