ORANGE — The Southwest Chamber Music Society has frequently demonstrated its commitment to 20th-Century music. So far, this season has seen two U.S. premieres, with still another U.S. premiere--Sofia Gubaidulina's "Quasi Hoquetus"--and one world premiere--Charles Wuorinen's "A Winter's Tale"--in the offing. Results have often been exciting.
On Thursday night, at Salmon Recital Hall on the campus of Chapman University, the outcome proved more frustrating than exhilarating.
Violinist Sheryl Staples, pianist Gloria Cheng and cellist Roger Lebow conquered technical challenges almost without fail but repeatedly shied away from important decisions regarding direction, voicing and, especially, content.
Shostakovich's Piano Trio in E minor, written in 1944 as a wrenching memorial to his friend Ivan Sollertinsky and to all who had died in the Nazi death camps, should be biting, relentless, uneasy. On this occasion, however, speed and volume predominated, all amid a clean, overly refined atmosphere. The Scherzo flew by with barely a hint of foreboding. The opening chords of the Largo marched perfunctorily, stoic instead of lamenting. The movement--potentially an agonizing dirge--fell flat, squelched by insufficient color and inflection.
Only in the Finale did the three musicians find their mark, deftly shifting moods, led by Lebow's spine-tingling plunge into this macabre dance as the trio built toward a shattering triple forte.