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SummerFest’s excellent Loft adventure

08.09.13
Cho-Liang Lin, Joshua Roman
U~T San Diego

By James Chute

UCSD’s informal venue perfect fit for chamber music

Sometimes, everything works.

OK, the food and the service at UC San Diego’s The Loft were spotty.

So maybe not everything.

But once the music started at SummerFest’s first foray into a club-like atmosphere, the intimate, informal venue proved to be a perfect place to experience chamber music.

The eclectic selection of repertoire by Bartok, Ives, Debussy, Villa-Lobos, Carter and Joshua Roman was perfect.

The performances by violinists Cho-Liang Lin, Philippe Quint and Michelle Kim, cellist Roman, flutist Catherine Ransom Karoly, pianist Steven Lin and clarinetist Burt Hara were perfect.

Even the performers’ banter with the capacity audience, an area that is often a black hole for musicians, was perfect.

Nobody went on for too long, and they had thoughtful, often entertaining things to say about the music and on occasion, each other.

Karoly explained that her husband is a cellist and together they frequently perform Villa-Lobos’ “Jet Whistle” for Flute and Cello. So she felt as if she was being unfaithful playing it with Roman. Then she and Roman proceeded to light a fire under Villa-Lobos’ eccentric work, capturing all of its rhythmic energy and lyrical impulse.

Cho-Liang Lin and Quint, in several selections from Bartok’s 44 Duos for Two Violins, appeared to be having entirely too much fun in alert, assured interpretations.

Quint, Roman and Steven Lin also thoroughly enjoyed each other’s company in an enthusiastic rendering of Ives’ remarkable TSIAJ (“This Scherzo is a Joke”). “My Old Kentucky Home,” and dozens of other songs and hymns Ives uses and abuses (often at once), never sounded so good. Steven Lin made Ives swing, propelling the music forward without pushing it.

Karoly offered a supple, elegant rendering of Debussy’s “Syrinx,” while Kim, Hara and Steven Lin offered a vibrant yet nuanced account of Bartok’s “Contrasts.”

In addition to Ives, Villa-Lobos and Carter (the Elegy for Cello and Piano), Roman also played Roman. As he demonstrated in the other works, he is that too rare performer who is not only an exceptional musician, but plays with an open heart as well.

There’s something authentic about Roman’s approach to his instrument and the sound he produces, and that same quality is also evident in his “Riding Light.”

Indeed, the element that made this entire program so appealing was its human quality. It’s inevitably present in music, but rarely is it so evident.

Let’s hear more.