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Pianist Golub Still Drawn To Ensembles

August 28, 1987|KENNETH HERMAN

LA JOLLA — Though pianist David Golub plays his share of blockbuster solo concertos with orchestras from Philadelphia to London, he never seems to get enough chamber music. Even as a student, he was known for his voracious appetite for such intimate music-making.

"I couldn't say no," Golub said. "When I was at Juilliard, they would pull me out of the cafeteria to read through more chamber music. I was always game."

The 37-year-old pianist will appear Saturday and Sunday in the final performances of the La Jolla Chamber Music Society's SummerFest '87. A native Chicagoan, Golub now makes his home in Milan, a concession to his flourishing international career and to his Milanese wife, Maria, who is head of an Italian philanthropic foundation that sponsors music competitions and funds the restoration of Baroque Italian organs.

For Golub, chamber music has frequently sparked his solo career. Shortly after completing his formal studies, he was asked to accompany violinist Isaac Stern. An invitation to join the maestro on a six-week tour in the early 1970s grew into a three-year association with Stern.

"After I had performed in a city with Stern, I would frequently be asked to return to appear with the local symphony." By the end of his third year with Stern, the young pianist's burgeoning solo career placed demands on his time that nearly drove him to a nervous breakdown, so he decided to concentrate on his solo performing. In 1979, he again joined Stern on a concert tour of China, which was filmed and made into the 1981 Academy Award wining film, "From Mao to Mozart."

Golub's conversational manner is marked by a mannerly intensity, a thoroughly consistent demeanor for a performer whose precision and subtlety are regularly praised by the critics. As a musical collaborator, however, he is not obsequious.

"I'm not shy about trying to obtain a musical result," he explained. "Of course, playing chamber music, nobody wants to be overbearing, but compromise is dangerous, too."

Golub's suave diplomacy is clearly an asset in a music festival where he is preparing four compositions with 10 different players.

"In ensemble playing, the two things you want are the contrasts among the various musical personalities and an overall unity that is larger than the individual parts. But it is enough to agree on a basic approach--there is no need to have complete unanimity on the details of performance."

On Saturday evening, Golub will perform the Shostakovich G Minor Piano Quintet, which, according to Golub, has received an undue amount of bad press over the years, largely because the 1940 work was awarded the Stalin Prize. Golub is its passionate advocate, however, and when SummerFest director Heiichiro Ohyama was not able to program the quintet last year, Golub's wish was granted in SummerFest '87.

"The piece's main challenge for the pianist is not thinking of it pianistically. Even in his smaller works, Shostakovich was a natural symphonist. I find I need to think symphonically and make string-like effects with the piano."

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