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Evolving with a selective style

The Ventura Chamber Music Festival, led by the resident Colorado String Quartet, opens over the weekend with eclectic performances, from classical to jazz.

May 06, 2003|Josef Woodard | Special to The Times

VENTURA — The Ventura Chamber Music Festival, running through the weekend, continues a healthy evolution with an especially eclectic program this year. Last weekend's opening festivities ranged from Mark O'Connor's retro "hot jazz" to the Falla Guitar Trio's stylistic variety, while the Colorado String Quartet's residency represented the classical cause at the center of the festival agenda.

At Friday night's opening concert, the accomplished, all-female quartet offered the meat-and-potatoes stuff of Beethoven, Britten and Dvorak.

On Sunday, though, they settled into the San Buenaventura Mission chapel for a program that took pleasantly surprising turns away from the expected. The only real repertory pillar came after intermission, with a glowing, wise reading of Schubert's great "Death and the Maiden," played with a bounding confidence and dynamic detailing that energized the whole.

They weren't quite so dead-on while playing the program's accessible oddity, Webern's "Langsamer Satz for String Quartet," sometimes shaky in intonation and cohesion. It's a harmless enough but shamelessly romantic, 19th century-leaning student exercise by the composer best known for his graceful 12-tone writing.

Opening the concert, soprano Christina Wilcox joined the quartet for two Mozart arias, "Vado, ma dove?" and "Chi sa, chi sa quai sia," sung with a clean-machined classical decorum.

She also complemented the lithe and melancholic loveliness of Samuel Barber's setting of Matthew Arnold's post-World War I poem "Dover Beach," whose anti-war, pro-love message had a poignant timeliness.

The Ventura Chamber Music Festival continues through Sunday, when members of the New West Symphony will perform in Ventura City Hall.

Highlights of the remaining days include guitarists the Assad Brothers Thursday, the new music group eighth blackbird Friday and Saturday's Festival Orchestra concert.


Ventura Chamber Music Festival

Where: Various venues in Ventura

When: Through Sunday

Price: Free to $40

Contact:, (805) 648-3146.

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