That the Virginia-based Audubon Quartet has eluded Southern California for the first decade of the ensemble's existence indicates gross negligence on the part of our impresarios. Happily, the group finally made its Southland debut on Friday at the Doheny Mansion, under auspices of the Da Camera Society.
The Audubon Quartet--violinists David Ehrlich and David Salness, violist Doris Lederer, cellist Thomas Shaw--offered the local premiere of the Quartet No. 1 by Peter Schickele, yes, P.D.Q. Bach himself, but without the clown paraphernalia this time around.
Schickele's half-hour piece, subtitled "American Dreams" and composed for the Audubon Quartet in 1983, is an inspired hodgepodge of styles and influences, with echoes of Virgil Thomson-ish pseudo-folkery, bird song, country fiddling, Bartok, Charlie Parker, Native American chant, Sibelius, Jean-Luc Ponty and heaven knows what else.
Even on first encounter the work seems familiar. Yet, at the same time, new, so clever is Schickele's juxtaposition of the contents of his bottomless grab bag.
The Audubon members played "American Dreams" like inspired demons, with splendid technical command, a big, vibrant ensemble tone and an infectious sense of pleasure.
The evening began with Haydn's slyly witty Quartet in B-flat, Opus 50, No. 1, in a joyously aggressive, impeccably balanced reading, and officially ended with a poignant, lushly dramatic rendering of Smetana's "From My Life."
Perhaps the next time around--which cannot be soon enough--the Audubon Quartet will give us the whole of Villa-Lobos' Quartet No. 6, whose soulful slow movement was the single encore.