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Music Review : Fontenay Trio: Performance Over Program

October 25, 1994|HERBERT GLASS

There could be no reaction other than admiration for the polished professionalism with which the Hamburg-based Fontenay Trio performed on Sunday at Beckman Auditorium on the Caltech campus.

What the ensemble offered, to open the 91st season of Coleman Concerts in Pasadena was another matter: a program that concerned itself with the trivial and the hackneyed.

Beginning with one of the less inventive among Joseph Haydn's rarely ear-stretching trios, the work in C, Hoboken 21, the Fontenay--pianist Wolf Harden, violinist Michael Mucke, cellist Niklas Schmidt--projected the energy, light-toned elegance and easy interaction that have made the Fontenay's numerous recordings and too-rare local live appearances cherishable experiences. But one warm-up piece, faultlessly executed as it may have been, should have been enough.

On this occasion, the trio chose to follow the slender opener with a tepid second strike, Beethoven's "Kakadu" Variations, which gave way to the drowsily repetitious "Notturno" that Schubert, in his infinite wisdom, deleted from his great B-flat Trio. All this vamping preceded the significant but overly familiar strains of Dvorak's "Dumky" Trio.

Again, it's difficult to imagine the pre-"Dumky" pieces more fetchingly played, and if one has to sit yet again through that particular Dvorak Trio, let it be in such an intelligent reading as the Fontenay's, which concentrated on the score's vigorous folk rhythms rather than presenting it as the sob-and-throb fest most ensembles make of it.

But, not to belabor the point (further), the program as a whole proved neither coherent nor stimulating, which, to these ears, amounts to a conspicuous waste of this fine ensemble's talents.

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