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MUSIC REVIEW : Players End the Quiet With Abandon : Subdued tunes give way to aggressive exploration of Brahms' work by Pacific Symphony members in performance at Bowers Museum.


SANTA ANA — Contrasts in style and approach were striking during the second and final concert of the Pacific Symphony chamber-music series Thursday night.

Performing at the Bowers Museum of Cultural Art--which co-sponsored both "Feasts for the Senses" as part of its "Thursday Evenings at the Bowers" events--the players swung between appropriate emotional restraint and abandon. All the performers are principals of the orchestra except pianist Chester Swiatkowski, who is with the Pasadena Symphony.

Cellist Timothy Landauer and bassoonist David Riddles began the evening with an elegant reading of Mozart's amiable Sonata in B-flat, K. 292. Though confining themselves to the quieter end of the dynamic spectrum, the pair managed a surprising variety of color, and mustered much neatly appointed charm.

In the hands of flutist Louise DiTullio, oboist Barbara Northcutt, Riddles and Swiatkowski, Johann Joachim Quantz's Trio Sonata in C minor also received a subdued delivery.

In this case--partly because of a lightweight score and partly because of an apparent lack of leadership--results tended more toward blandness than refinement. At times, the duet between DiTullio and Northcutt was barely discernible over its active accompaniment. The four musicians chose conservative tempos and kept to a limited palette of dynamics.

After such contained works, so discreetly treated, the aggressive exploration of Brahms' imposing First Piano Quartet, Opus 25, stood out starkly.

Violinist Endre Granat, violist Robert Becker, Landauer and Swiatkowski offered passionate, purposeful playing, tackling the demanding piece with sure technique and empathetic ensemble.

They built suspense and sustained tension relentlessly, juggled rhythmic complexities with seeming ease and successfully hazarded hair-raising speed for the Rondo alla Zingarese, pausing only for brief interludes of playfulness and bittersweet lyricism.

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