It's hard to knock good intentions. The idea of bringing chamber music to the small, coastal city of Seal Beach continues to be a positive contribution to the community's enrichment.
But at the opening concert of the 15th annual Seal Beach Chamber Music Festival, Thursday night at McGaugh School Auditorium, there were problems. The program, which included a pair of string quartets by Haydn and Brahms, was interesting enough but was executed in a clumsy, halfhearted way.
The auditorium deserves part of the blame. Thick red carpeting made the string ensemble sound overly brittle while pointing up frequent inaccuracies.
Still, the forces at hand, the Monarch String Quartet--Edward and Roxie Persi, violins, Craig Gibson, viola, and Alan Parker, cello--could have used more preparation. For a short evening of about 80 minutes--announcements and a somewhat lengthy intermission included--the music became tedious and staggered without substantial aim or insight.
The fifth and one of the less-familiar of Haydn's six Erdody Quartets, Opus 76, offered the most interesting fare, although the players suffered intonation problems, sagging tempos and a largely unvarying dynamic level. The prominent first violin part gave Edward Persi the spotlight. He handled it without much finesse or nuance, but nevertheless held the ensemble together through stickier passages.
The more difficult Brahms Quartet in C minor drooped and dragged, especially the Romanze--the slow second movement--which at times proved agonizing. Even more than in the Haydn, a lack of vitality, unsynchronized rhythms and a generally nonchalant approach made the performance muddy and without definition.