On the surface, it appears that the opening event of the Sequoia String Quartet and Friends series, Monday at the Japan America Theatre, finds the ensemble friendless. No guest soloist is listed. But look again.
This program will serve to formally introduce two new friends--cellist Marius May and violinist Peter Marsh, the newest Sequoians.
"It was totally intentional that the first concert would focus on the new group," violist James Dunham noted just prior to a group rehearsal at the home of second violinist Miwako Watanabe. "The repertory was chosen to spotlight Marius and Peter," Watanabe added. "The Schubert ("Death and the Maiden") and the Shostakovich (Quartet No. 8) both have prominent cello parts and, of course, the first violin has many important moments."
How different is the "new" Sequoia from the "old"? Watanabe points to the opening night program: "Jim and I have never done Shostakovich before. In future programs, we plan to do more Romantic stuff, too. But we're not into comparing 'new' with 'old.' " On the subject of a "new sound," Dunham suggested, "We won't know for a while, but it should be different. The change in the group has made us rethink everything."
While both players agreed that the period of adjustment has gone "exceptionally fine" (Watanabe's words), Dunham confesses that the three months of three-to-five hours a day in rehearsal since the amicable leavetaking of violinist Yoko Matsuda and cellist Robert Martin have not exactly been a stroll in the park. "It's hard to relearn personalities. The experience has been difficult, but exhilarating.
"You know the cliche about two kids being no more trouble than one?" Dunham asks. "It's true with us. We find that it's better to do it (change personnel) all at once. Earlier in the year, Yoko and Bob had decided, 'This is our best moment to leave.' But both said that either one would stay an extra year if needed. That was a wonderful gesture, but Miwako and I were confident we could come up with players of high caliber."
To Watanabe, that high caliber makes playing in the revamped group "magical. We learn from them and they learn from us." What about the widening age spread (Marsh is in his 50s, May in his 20s)? "It's just not a factor," she replies, adding with a giggle, "Spiritually, Peter is the youngest in the group.
"We all come from different backgrounds and we all have been professionally exposed. There's so much experience--and that makes it so interesting. Right away we began talking of nuances." Any arguments thus far? "Oh, we're constantly bickering," she replied with a laugh.
PREVIN, WEEK III: The Los Angeles Philharmonic concerts at the Music Center this week mark the final appearances for 1985 by newly installed music director Andre Previn (seems like he just got here). Beginning Thursday, Previn will conduct Jacob Druckman's "Aureole," (written in 1977 and dedicated to Leonard Bernstein, whose "Kaddish" Symphony is quoted), Debussy's "Images" and Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 4. On Oct. 31, the orchestra will open the New Music America Festival at the Music Center under the baton of Leonard Slatkin. Guest conductors for the remainder of this year are Erich Leinsdorf and Esa-Pekka Salonen. Previn will return to the Philharmonic podium on Jan. 2.
WHAT'S IN A (MIDDLE) NAME?: Poor Mozart. He always hoped that one day he would really make a name for himself. And he has. Problem is, it's his middle name. We can thank the Academy Award-winning film "Amadeus" for that.
Have performing arts organizations jumped at the opportunity to cash in? Of course. Witness the following:
--Today in the City by the Bay, the San Francisco Conservatory will host a 10-hour "Amadeu thon ," promising nonstop music of you-know-who, played by some three dozen local musicians.
--At Loyola Marymount University in Westchester, the first in a four-part series titled "Amadeus/The Mozart Project" begins on Friday and Saturday with joint recitals by pianist Michael Cave (founder of the series) and soprano Catherine Bennett. Prior to the hit movie, a press release suggests, Mozart "was appreciated only by music connoisseurs." Hmmmm.
--Then there's Riverside Opera, which will present "Cosi Fan Tutte" on Nov. 16. "From the Master Himself," proclaims the season brochure, which lists above the name of the opera the name of the composer: wolfgang AMADEUS mozart.
Incidentally, even the pop world has given Salzburg's greatest hitmaker a turn. The recently reformed English group Squeeze has titled its reunion record "Cosi Fan Tutti Frutti."