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Music Reviews : Coleman Concerts Season Opens

October 20, 1987|HERBERT GLASS

The 84th season of Coleman Concerts--imagine anything being around that long in Southern California, let alone a series devoted to chamber music--opened on Sunday at Caltech's Beckman Auditorium. The performers were five string-playing members of the Boston Chamber Music Society, appearing locally for the first time.

The program began with the stormy passions of Beethoven's Trio in C minor, Opus 9, No. 3, for violin (Stephanie Chase), viola (Marcus Thompson) and cello (Bruce Coppock). The performance proved to be a model of finely balanced ensemble, brightly attractive tone and youthful ardor.

Violinist Lynn Chang and cellist Ronald Thomas then took the stage, playing with stunning technical command the busywork Duo (1927) of Bohuslav Martinu. But there isn't much to play with, Martinu's low point being an interminable, mechanical cadenza in double stops for the cello during which the violinist can only stand and wait, without hope of equal time from the composer.

From that bit of ridiculousness to the sublimity of Schubert's C-major String Quintet--in which all the aforementioned artists participated--is as gigantic a step as music can take. But the Bostonians only fleetingly rose to Schubert's challenge.

The first movement was a particular disappointment: brusque, rushed, and unsubtle in dynamics. In the even more demanding slow movement, however, the five artists (Chase playing first violin, Thomas first cello) gave us a glimpse of the intense communicativeness of which they are capable. They took their time, patiently and handsomely projecting the music's crushing alternations of hope and despair, of rage and dreamlike languor.

Whereupon--in the two remaining movements--their concentration, if not their technical aplomb, again seemed less than fully engaged.

One movement, alas, does not an interpretation make.

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