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MUSIC: Ventura County | SOUNDS

Campus Goes Classical

'Schubertian Players' will close the String Institute season.

June 19, 1997|JOSEF WOODARD | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

At Cal Lutheran University in Thousand Oaks, summertime brings the annual Summer String Institute. Good music requires good tools, and this is a rare program in which the main subjects are violin repair and bow making.

A performance component of the program includes concerts in the Samuelson Chapel, an inviting venue for music, closing with Friday's program of mostly Schubert. Schubert's 200th birthday year has brought a bounty of the composer's music to the public sphere. At CLU, the "Schubertian Players," featuring pianist Dorothy Schechter, will perform Schubert's "Trout" quintet for piano and strings, as well as music by Mozart, C.P.E. Bach and C.H. Gaun.

* "The Schubertian Players," Fri., 7 p.m., at Samuelson Chapel, Cal Lutheran, 60 W. Olsen Road, Thousand Oaks. $8 (free for CLU students, faculty, staff). 493-3305.

*

Speaking of Schubert: Schubert recently made his way to Ojai's Libbey Bowl for the 51st annual Ojai Festival. This is one event that is not as predictable as some, given the festival's penchant for music of our century over standard repertoire.

But Schubert's music kept showing up all weekend, from the Trio in E flat on opening night to the pair of violin showpieces, well negotiated by Cho-Liang Lin in the final program. Clarinetist Richard Stoltzman, making his Ojai debut, got in on the Schubert act as well, performing an unusual version of Schubert's "Arpeggione" Sonata, normally played on cello.

In a strange way, though, perhaps the finest Schubert-related music of the weekend was John Harbison's "November 19, 1828" (so named for the date of Schubert's death). It's a game and moving updating of Schubertian gestures, filtered through Harbison's modern sensibility.

The tendency in Ojai this year--as defined by music director and estimable pianist Emanuel Ax and artistic director Ara Guzalimian (in his last year on the job, before leaving to head the Aspen Festival)--was to freely mix things old and new. Sometimes, older composers were represented by offbeat or obscure works, i.e. Mozart's tasty little cream puff, "A Musical Joke," or Rameau's Suite from "Les Boreades," a Baroque piece with some oddly modern touches. Rameau capped off the festival neatly, if not very memorably.

While it may lure a wider range of listeners to mix up traditional with modern musical fare, the festival seemed strangely unbalanced this year. The best moments came from music of the 20th century, especially John Adams' "Gnarly Buttons," a clarinet concerto enjoying its American premiere. Like other of Adams' recent works, the piece is fun and serious-minded at the same time, adventurous in its Ives-ian stitchery of different music: cowboy twang and tart Stravinsky harmonies, for instance, or a pop ballad chaotically deconstructed and reborn in the final movement.

Stoltzman's Sunday morning concert reached its apex with Steve Reich's minimalist "New York Counterpoint." It's a piece in which the soloist dives into a thicket of 10 prerecorded clarinets. The composer's 20-year-old son, Peter Stoltzman, joined in for a set of serviceable jazz.

Ax and his wife, Yoko Nozaki, plumbed expressive depths with their two-piano reading of two movements from Messiaen's "Visions de l'Amen."

The precarious juggling act, attending to respect and irreverence for the whole of classical music, may be the Ojai Festival's inherent challenge. Looking back at this year's event, it was one of the more accessible in Ojai, but also one that left a vague sense of incompleteness. Even so, there were enough of the deep and cutting-edge moments to enrich us, and offer a reminder of the precious resource the festival is in Ventura County.

*

Symphonic Simi: The small but enterprising Santa Susana Symphony will close out its season Sunday at the Simi Valley Cultural Center. The ambitious program includes Mahler's Fourth Symphony and Ernest Bloch's "Three Jewish Poems."

* Santa Susana Symphony, at the Simi Valley Cultural Center, 7 p.m. Sun. 581-9940.

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