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MUSIC REVIEW : Mona Golabek Puts Bite Into Staid Chamber Program

April 21, 1993|LAURENCE VITTES | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Franz Schubert's "Trout" Quintet is not usually considered a virtuoso's vehicle. Monday night, however, pianist Mona Golabek took it and, with the help of four members of the Los Angeles Philharmonic Chamber Music Society, made other performances of the beloved favorite sound safe and staid.

Though her playing was undisciplined and even willful at times, it also surged with such incandescent energy and deeply musical illumination that it inspired not only the audience but Golabek's partners, each of whom rose to the occasion with ferociously magnificent playing. Violinist Mitchell Newman showed a concertmaster's brilliance and leadership, violist Evan N. Wilson and cellist Daniel Rothmuller contributed inner lines of lustrous beauty, and bassist Christopher Hanulik provided a throbbing, underlying pulse.

This was hardly the comfortable Schubert to whom music lovers love to snooze. Instead, it was the work of a composer at the height of his blazing powers, determined to push players to their limits.

Wilson opened the concert with a killer performance of his own, a tremendous reading of Michael Colgrass's 25-minute tour de force called "Variations for Four Drums and Viola." Mixing a uniquely open yet complex lyricism with musical influences of Ravel ("Tzigane") and Stravinsky ("A Soldier's Tale"), and structured in a dramatically satisfying set of five movements, the 1957 work absolutely refutes the entire genre of viola jokes (incredibly, however, no recording exists).

Accompanied expertly by Mitchell Peters' rototoms, Wilson put his extraordinary technique entirely at the service of the music's flamboyant musical personality.

Sandwiched between these towering performances, a more subdued reading of Beethoven's String Trio, Opus 9, No. 1 by violinist Guido Lamell, violist Dale Silverman and Rothmuller still made a rich impression, particularly once it reached the delightfully kitschy, second Trio in the Scherzo movement.

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