By Ted AYALA
Southwest Chamber Music’s (SWCM) cycle of the Mozart String Quintets continued last weekend, on August 6 and 7 at the loggia of the Huntington Library. Sandwiched between the Third and Fifths String Quintets was a delightful, contemporary chamber work that very nearly stole the spotlight from Mozart.
Charles Wuorinen has long been one of America’s most respected composers. The Pulitzer Prize winning composer has produced an oeuvre that is at once challenging, eclectic, whimsical, and brimming with originality. He didn’t disappoint with his slender ‘Spinoff’ for the unusual combination of violin, double bass, and conga drums. Spiky rhythms, free chromaticism, and the colorful accompaniment and interjection of the conga drums flowed from Wuorinen’s score. It was a welcome refresher from Mozart’s rococo world that was played with brilliant technique and flair by SWCM musicians Shalina Vijayan (violin), Tom Peters (contrbass), and Lynn Vartan (percussion).
Opening the program was Mozart’s Second String Quintet, by turns graceful and severe, is a work roughly contemporaneous with the some of his best-known works, including the 40th and 41st Symphonies. On the opposite end was one of Mozart’s finest creations–the Fifth String Quintet which pulses forth with all the wit and humor the composer was known for. A relatively late work from 1790, the Quintet displays the full breadth of Mozart’s powers as a composer; a snapshot of the composer at his creative peak.
One immediately felt the spark of something special the moment the collective bows of SWCM musicians Lorenz Gamma (1st violin), Shalina Vijanyan (2nd violin), Luke Maurer (1st viola), Kira Blumberg (2nd viola), and Peter Jacobsen (cello) touched the strings of their instruments. From first note to last, their genuine thrill and joy in playing the piece was evident. In their playing, Mozart’s true voice emerged: one earthy and filled with jest, yet married to the control of a master’s technique. The finale, bubbling over with echoes of the opera Marriage of Figaro, fizzed out into the Huntington Library’s loggia with a radiance that nearly dispelled the night with a life-filled light.
SWCM’s Mozart Quintet cycle concludes on the weekend of Aug. 20-21 with performances of Mozart’s Horn Quintet, Sixth String Quintet, and Leo Wadada Smith’s Ten Thousand Cerus Peruvianus. For more details on their summer series, please visit SWCM’s website at www.swmusic.org.