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Premiere Of Biggs' Concert Suite

June 10, 1986|TERRY McQUILKIN

It was one of those concerts you look forward to hearing. You find the music appealing, the performances immaculate and the setting congenial. But the whole thing mysteriously evaporates from your memory within 24 hours.

It was, in other words, a nice concert. But hardly distinctive.

The main event Sunday evening at Grace United Methodist Church in Long Beach was the world premiere of John Biggs' Concert Suite for piano trio. The four-movement work opens with a lively "Capriccio" which is built around a catchy, syncopated rhythmic figure, giving the movement an easygoing, relaxed and winsome character.

The melodic style and harmonic vocabulary are drawn from the familiar storage chest of ripe American neoclassicism; what the work lacks in originality the composer makes up for in his skillful development and counterpoint.

The middle movements, alas, emerge bland and meandering. In "Devil's Dance," however, accented, dissonant chords hammered out at irregular intervals bring the work to a driving conclusion. Violinist David Stenske, cellist Howard Colf and pianist Michael Zearott in turn proved effervescent, expressive and galvanic.

Before intermission, violinist Cecilia Ramos joined the trio in an accurate and energetic performance of Vivaldi's Concerto Grosso in D minor, Opus 11, No. 3. Despite Zearott's apparently crisp, articulate playing, all of the lines became somewhat muddy-sounding in the spaciousness of the church sanctuary, which doubtless exacerbated the problems inherent in using a piano to perform Baroque music. The same held true for the preceding two works, a keyboard suite by Purcell and a Bach sonata for cello and keyboard, both brilliantly performed.

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