FULLERTON — Yukiko and Friends seemed to promise a program filled with 19th-Century Angst and Romantic excess in the Performing Arts Center at Sunny Hills High School on Sunday afternoon. Unfortunately--with one major exception--fulfillment remained elusive.
As the third concert in the 35th season of Fullerton Friends of Music, violinist Yukiko Kamei and pianist Ayke Agus gave an always-gutsy, often-wrenching reading of Cesar Franck's Sonata in A. Although Agus entered the picture with only three days' notice--replacing Shunsuke Kurakata, Kamei's recently ailing husband--she brought remarkable agreement of phrasing and point to their only collaboration on the program.
Such empathy, however, was sadly lacking elsewhere on this occasion. Apparently, Kurakata felt sufficiently recovered to assay Schumann's Adagio and Allegro in A-flat, for horn and piano, Opus 70, and Brahms' Horn Trio in E-flat, Opus 40. Perhaps he was overly optimistic, for he wandered listlessly through both works, churning out a particularly wimpy account of Brahms' powerful work.
During the trio, the ensemble might more aptly have been called Yukiko Without Friends, given that the violinist's consistent attention to Brahms' intensity and power, her conviction and sensitivity elicited little response from either the pianist or from Glen Swarts, on horn. Swarts exhibited plenty of technical refinement, but scant excitement.
As the protagonist during the Adagio and Allegro, Swarts mustered somewhat more robust expression, along with notably polished and controlled playing. Control appeared to be a particular point of pride for the hornist, even in his own composition.
The sole deviation from the Romantic idiom came in the premiere of Swarts' "Notturna Breva 1993" for unaccompanied horn--a dialogue between ranges that requires minute precision and that ends with two simultaneous notes, one from each conversant.