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MUSIC AND DANCE REVIEWS

South Bay Chamber Society Bows Safely

May 12, 1997|TIMOTHY MANGAN

The 34th season of the South Bay Chamber Music Society ended Friday night with a packed house, and with and odds and ends by Poulenc, Beethoven and Brahms.

This was not what you would call an adventurous program. When clarinetist Gary Gray announced that Poulenc's Clarinet Sonata was composed in 1962, he quickly added, reassuringly, that it was "unlike much of 20th century music in that it's melodic." This was answered with three cheers from those gathered in Los Angeles Harbor College's recital hall, and no doubt a sigh of relief.

But why question success? Every concert doesn't have to break new ground. The South Bay Society's events are well attended and a 35th season looms. And this night, local stalwarts Gray, cellist David Speltz and pianist Ayke Agus certainly provided sure-fire playing.

In Brahms' Clarinet Trio, Opus 114--one of the late, effortless works of the composer in which the clarinet inspired creamy streams of thought--Speltz played an effusive leading role, while Gray traced nuanced lines in the shadows. Nevertheless, the instrumentation didn't quite live up to the romantic and grand statements of the piece (its first theme was supposedly destined for a fifth symphony).

Though dedicated to the memory of Honegger, Poulenc's sonata seemed fairly lightweight stuff in Gray's easygoing traversal, if only for the fact that the composer changes moods constantly, rather than explore them in depth.

Beethoven's Opus 69 Cello Sonata opened the program, with Speltz's big, ringing tone and expressive agility producing a strong focus in the tightly knit reading.

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