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MUSIC REVIEWS

Violinist Gives a Display of Energy, Control

May 13, 1997|JOSEF WOODARD

The ever-rewarding Chamber Music in Historic Sites series ended Sunday, in a site in Pacific Palisades that was literally a cliffhanger. Noted architect Ray Kappe designed this compact, vertical house, laid out on a steep hillside as a series of intersecting planes. Surfaces of wood, reinforced concrete and thick glass flooring cohere in an inviting, warm-spirited modernist scheme.

It was a compelling chamber in which to hear the considerable talents of Taiwan-born violinist Nai-Yuan Hu, a player of dauntless energy and control, who also boasts a refined sense of detail. Pianist Ayke Agus, who accompanied Jascha Heifitz for years and also plays violin, offered him hand-in-glove support.

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By its nature, this series invites site-consciousness in listeners. One might have sensed a stylistic mismatch between the thick-crust Romanticism and purple passions of Grieg's Sonata No. 3 in C minor, Opus 45--however deftly played--and the clean, rational ambience of the house. At least a trace of 20th century programming would have been suitable.

The violinist showed a confident hand on Beethoven's Sonata in G, Opus 30, No. 3--a furious, but amiable workout. The showstopper came with Heinrich Wilhelm Ernst's Paganini-esque tour de force, "Rondo Papageno, Opus 20." A playful and fiendishly difficult piece, it requires gymnastic range-leaping, knuckle-buster double stops, sneaky harmonics and rapid scale flurries, all met with seeming effortlessness.

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