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Music Reviews : Sequoia, Goode At Japan America

May 05, 1987|HERBERT GLASS

The Sequoia String Quartet & Friends season at the Japan America Theatre ended triumphantly-- and somewhat sadly--on Sunday afternoon. The triumph was one of performing style over musical content: a magnificent reading of Elgar's bloated A-minor Piano Quintet.

It was hardly coincidental that the Sequoians' collaborator in Elgar was the most steadfast of its "friends," pianist Richard Goode, whose presence over the years has consistently brought out the best in the ensemble.

And Goode himself thundered and sang at the keyboard as if the glutinous Elgarian mix of Brahms and something vaguely out of the Franckian chromatic bag were the highest of art, which perhaps the work is for a few moments in the broadly lyrical central movement.

Goode's string-playing collaborators--violinists Peter Marsh and Miwako Watanabe, violist James Dunham, cellist Bonnie Hampton--provided playing that was lushly sonorous, technically of the highest order and as passionately intense as that of their inspired soloist.

The sadness previously referred to was occasioned in part by patchy execution in the remainder of the program, which composed the Quartet in B-flat from Beethoven's Opus 18 and the Ravel Quartet, both just a bit too ragged (mainly attributable to the little scrapes and scratches, the occasional missed note--nothing drastic, mind you--from violinist Marsh).

And sad, too, was the news that Dunham, who has evolved into the complete quartet violist, would soon be departing for the Cleveland Quartet. He will be sorely missed, not only from the Sequoia, whose future is at best clouded, but from the broader local scene he has enhanced for more than a dozen years as performer and teacher.

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