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MUSIC REVIEW

Spotty Close to Pacific Chamber Series

May 19, 1997|SUSAN BLISS | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

LAGUNA BEACH — The chirping of a wayward cricket added perky accompaniment Saturday night when Canadian pianist Bernadene Blaha and violinist Isabella Lippi joined principal members of the Pacific Symphony to finish this season's Chamber Music Series at Laguna Beach High School.

During the opening work, Mozart's Oboe Quartet, K. 370, the cricket conveyed more energy than the performers. Lippi, oboist Barbara Northcutt, violist Robert Becker and cellist Timothy Landauer united for warm-toned but otherwise characterless pleasantries.

However, the same quartet returned to rejuvenate the concert with a clean and rhythmically incisive reading of the Phantasy for Oboe and String Trio, Opus 2, by Benjamin Britten. The foursome engaged one another in succinct conversation, interrupted only by the slow interlude, which provoked a sensual, inviting solo from Becker.

A relative lack of sensuous coloration and pacing marred the interpretation of Brahms' luscious Piano Quartet No. 1 in G minor, Opus 25. Nevertheless, there was breadth and mystery in the muscular performance by Lippi, Becker, Landauer and Blaha, distinguished by expansive phrasing and rhythmic definition and capped with an impressive athletic workout during the closing Rondo "ala Zingarese."

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