Talk about quiet entrances. On Wednesday night Bonnie Hampton makes her first appearance as the newest member of the locally based but nationally respected Sequoia String Quartet. Will that be treated as a big-deal debut for the cellist? Hardly.
For one thing, the program, presented at the Bing Theater of the County Art Museum, is really the domain of Czech guitarist Martin Mastik; the Sequoians' sole contributions will be in chamber works for guitar by Vivaldi and Boccherini.
Hampton further downplays the event, choosing to call it merely the first in a series of "spring training" warm-ups. "I suppose the group prefers to view the start of our 'Friends' series (opening at the Japan America Theater in November) as my official debut," the San Francisco-based musician says. Last season, the cellist herself appeared as guest artist in the series.
Though Hampton officially joined the group in June, she's already seeing a chemistry developing. "I have a sense of when it works and when it doesn't. This feels good." Two factors seem to be contributing to a smooth transition period.
First, her predecessor hardly stayed long enough to warm up the cellist's chair. Marius May (successor to Robert Martin) left the Sequoia earlier this year only eight months after he joined. So violist James Dunham, and violinists Peter Marsh (who came aboard with May last year) and Miwako Watanabe never had a chance to settle into any kind of groove with the now-departed cellist, who returned to England to resume his solo career.
But the greatest help to the new Sequoians is Hampton's lifetime spent in chamber music. (Sidestepping the question of age, the cellist allows that she is close to Marsh, who is 55.) "As I see it," she says, "the more experience one has in chamber music life, the more one develops a kind of radar, an antenna--an immediate sense of communication."
As one-third of the Francesco Trio (with her husband, pianist Nathan Schwartz, and violinist David Abel), as coordinator of the Chamber Music Center at the San Francisco Conservatory--where she serves on the faculty--and as a member of the "very small family" of major-league chamber musicians, Hampton has become well-versed in the fine art of intimate music-making.
The only thing missing in her musical life, she notes, has been familiarity with string quartet repertory. That, of course, will soon change.
"It's really my principal motivation (for joining the Sequoia). The music for string quartet is the most wonderful repertory in chamber music, and this is my best chance to get into it. I've played briefly in quartets at summer festivals, but nothing for any length of time."
Which brings up an important consideration--time. If, as she has indicated, Hampton will maintain her "full musical life in San Francisco," how will she manage to divide her schedule?
In fact, she confesses, that issue had come up once before in connection with the Sequoia. "Last year, I had tried out with all the other cellists after Bob (Martin) left, but didn't really consider joining. I thought there was no way I could work it out. But then I realized that all my East Coast chamber-music colleagues commute all the time, and my husband said, 'Go, play with them.' So, we're trying it out. We're all playing this by ear."
While Hampton cannot commit herself to any of the quartet's lengthy local residencies, she will "be coming down (to Los Angeles) for patches of time. We will be touring the Midwest and East in March, and there are some recording projects in the works. And, of course, we'll be doing a lot of rehearsing.
"For me, this is a new adventure. Already, I'm starting to see music in a new light."
BOWL FINALE: Can the end of the Hollywood Bowl season be here already? It must be so, since the concluding work on the weekend pops program this week is Handel's "Royal Fireworks" Music--and there seems to be no other way for the Los Angeles Philharmonic's summer residency to wind up.
Gunther Herbig will be on the podium for the traditional closing event, which includes one untraditional element: Aled Jones, an English boy soprano, will appear as soloist, singing three Handel arias before the final fireworks display piece. Also on the agenda: Liszt's "Les Preludes" and Bruch's "Scottish Fantasy," with concertmaster Sidney Weiss as soloist.
Herbig will also lead the weeknight concerts. On Tuesday, violinist Cho-Liang Lin will be soloist in Mozart's Fourth Concerto. Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 5 and Weber's "Oberon" Overture complete the program.
On Thursday, Christopher Parkening will play one of Joaquin Rodrigo's two hits for guitar and orchestra, the "Fantasia para un gentilhombre." The native Angeleno will also offer a setting of the Shaker hymn "Simple Gifts." The remainder of the program includes Ravel's "Mother Goose" Suite and Brahms' Symphony No. 2.
Sandwiched between the Philharmonic concerts will be the final Virtuoso Series event--the Bowl debut of the King's Singers.
JOFFREY OPENING: The Joffrey Ballet, celebrating its 30th anniversary season, opens its three-week fall season at the Music Center Thursday, with the first of four consecutive performances of Frederic Ashton's "La Fille mal Gardee" (See Article on Page 46). In addition to the Ashton (seen in its company premiere), the opening week agenda lists a pair of mixed bills next Sunday.
BUMPER SNICKER: A license plate frame surrounding a personalized plate reading "4 4 TIME," seen on a Jaguar in Long Beach: "My Other Car Is a Steinway."