The Chamber Music/LA Festival on Thursday evening again deposited some gifted individuals onto the stage of the Japan America Theatre with orders to make ensemble music.
The program, three consecutive opus numbers by Beethoven--95 (String Quartet in F minor), 96 (Sonata in G for violin and piano), 97 (the "Archduke" Trio)--provided unexpected contrast and balance. The works were, after all, written over a period of two years, and the composer exorcised a few personal demons between the terse Opus 95 and its expansive successors.
But under present circumstances, the heat of Opus 95 threatened to incinerate rather than illuminate the score.
The quartet emerged a one-person show, with first violinist Ida Kavafian setting such a blistering pace, playing with such explosive intensity and, often, raw tone that one had to be grateful for the cool professionalism of her colleagues, violinist Yukiko Kamei, violist Milton Thomas and cellist Peter Rejto. Their ability to keep up with and subdue (if ever so slightly) their leader consistently kept the performance from coming unglued.
The problem was of a different, if related, sort in the "Archduke" Trio: music in which there is no leader, the three executants--here, pianist Edward Auer, violinist Christiaan Bor, cellist Nathaniel Rosen--treated as Olympian soloists who frequently engage in lofty conversation.