LA JOLLA — Although this year's SummerFest audience seems to have come equipped with an automatic "Bravo!" response, Saturday night's performance of the Schubert E-flat Piano Trio, Op. 100, warranted this level of enthusiasm. Most performances tap into the gravity and breadth of Schubert's chamber-size opus built on symphonic proportions, but SummerFest's players captured its youthful abandon as well as its emotional volatility.
The piece is a technical challenge to the most mature techniques, but violinist Thomas Zehetmair, cellist Gary Hoffman and pianist Jeffrey Kahane clearly demonstrated precocious mastery of their art. This trio of young musicians seemed the appropriate ensemble to play the E-flat Trio, since Schubert was only 31 when he wrote it.
Their empathy with the composer's intentions was indeed palpable. While their interpretive skills were keenly matched, Kahane's consistently sparkling articulation and deft phrasing gave him a slight edge.
This sizzling but satisfying Schubert was preceded by an elegant, understated interpretation of Kodaly's Duo for Violin and Cello by violinist Andres Cardenes and cellist Ronald Leonard. Kodaly's virtuoso cameo is frequently programmed, but it is rarely heard with such insight and purity of intonation.
The program opener, four selections from Max Bruch's Opus 83 for Clarinet, Viola and Piano, turned out to be little more than a polite gesture: another sweet morsel from artistic director Heiichiro Ohyama's pastry cart.
The only remarkable feature about Friday night's Sherwood Auditorium concert was the inclusion of Andre Jolivet's 1945 Woodwind Quintet. With Samuel Barber's "Summer Music for Woodwind Quintet," performed last Sunday afternoon, the Jolivet was the other post World War II work programmed in the La Jolla festival. Otherwise, all of the remaining pieces on the seven SummerFest public concerts could have been performed in a festival held 50 years ago.
For oboist Thomas Boyd, principal with the Glendale Symphony, the Jolivet quintet was an ideal vehicle for his supple technique and vibrant timbre. The audience seemed impatient and unduly restless because of the composition's modest dissonances and sardonic idiom. Nevertheless, it added a welcome element of unpredictability to the evening.
Ernst von Dohnanyi's String Serenade and Mendelssohn's String Quintet in B-flat completed Friday's program.