Stylistic authority comes in many guises. The performances by I Solisti Italiani, Thursday in Marsee Auditorium at the South Bay Center for the Arts, might not have satisfied authenticity hard-liners, but proved on their own terms elegant, eloquent and quite sensitive to the character of the music at hand.
For example, the unfashionably mellow and smooth treatment accorded Vivaldi's Concerto in F for Three Violins seemed almost deliberately retro until one noticed how well it suited the piece. Then in the "Cardellino" Piccolo Concerto in D, and the familiar B-minor Concerto for Four Violins, the crispness of the current mainstream style made effective and appropriate appearances, with welcome humor and passion.
The 12 players--all male--worked in effortless unanimity of phrasing, carefully balanced across a wide dynamic range.
Concertmaster Giovanni Guglielmo, Federico Guglielmo, Luca Fanfoni and Gigino Maestri were the articulate soloists in the B-minor Concerto; Maestri, Federico Guglielmo and Antonio DeSecondi attended capably to the Concerto in F, although inclined to push the final Allegro.
The solo concerto featured American flutist Gary Schocker, tootling with tremendous verve, breath control and individuality, particularly in some overblown weirdness at the very end. He was also frequently off pitch on his difficult instrument.
Schocker gave himself ample opportunity to display his warm, slightly fuzzy lower range and lyrical expressiveness in his own "Airborne," a slick pop concoction for flute and strings contrasting amiable reverie with fluttering abandon.
The Italians seemed less than ideally comfortable with the jazzy bounce of "Airborne," but demonstrated their stylistic range convincingly in the third set of Respighi's "Ancient Airs and Dances"--with poised and plangent solo interplay from Giovanni Guglielmo and principal violist Marcello Turio--Bartok's Rumanian Folk Dances and Grieg's "Two Elegiac Melodies."
In encore they turned, with equal flair, to the "Pizzicato" Polka and to Boccherini's most famous Minuet.
The ensemble is scheduled to close its Southland tour tonight in La Jolla.