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Music Review : Altmeyer's Grand Return Graces Strawberry Creek

August 22, 1994|DANIEL CARIAGA | TIMES MUSIC WRITER

As she had four years ago when she sang opposite a chamber-sized orchestration in Malibu of Brunnhilde's Immolation, American soprano Jeannine Altmeyer returned to Southern California to grace a concert organized by the still-struggling Strawberry Creek Music Festival on Saturday night in Thorne Hall at Occidental College.

With similarly grand results as those reported in 1990.

Now in her mid-40s, Altmeyer remains in healthy Wagnerian voice, and she displayed that voice strongly in three groups of lieder by Brahms, Wagner and Richard Strauss. She did not journey above the staff, yet the high notes she did venture--G-sharps, A-flats and an A-natural--filled this hall with resplendent sound. She can make an auditorium ring.

On this occasion, a benefit for the festival, she made it ring often--and, gowned in Grecian simplicity and celadon-green, she looked as heroic as she sounded.

Despite special moments when a glowing dramatic intensity combined with vocal splendor--as in Wagner's "Im Treibhaus" and "Schmerzen," and Strauss' "Heimliche Aufforderung"--Altmeyer did not invariably connect with her texts or color every syllable with meaning. Still, given the quality of resonance she achieves--and it is a quality to be found in very few places in the 1990s--to demand more and fancier detailing would be pedantic.

She was assisted capably by pianist Val Underwood.

Preceding the soprano's appearances on both halves of this program were Beethoven performances by younger members of the Strawberry Creek academic family.

A very gifted violinist, Nurit Pacht, joined pianist John Blacklow for a promising but largely half-baked run-through of the G-major Sonata, Opus 30, No. 3.

Later, the Strawberry Creek Woodwind Ensemble--oboist Ian Dahlberg, clarinetist William Wellwood, bassoonist Carolyn Lockhart and hornist Teag Reaves--combined with pianist Blacklow in an over-exuberant, jolly reading of the Opus 16 Quintet. Sometimes, the most appropriate response to such quality overplaying is a broad smile.

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