Fireworks from South America inaugurated La Jolla Music Society's SummerFest 2008 Friday, Aug. 1. The program paid homage to Astor Piazzolla (1921-1992) and also celebrated his countryman and devoted admirer, Oswald Golijov (b. 1960).
Cellist Carter Brey and pianist Garrick Ohlsson opened the program with Piazzolla's spirited "Le Grand Tango" for Cello and Piano. The piece comprises interplay between the two instruments that is as seductive and passionate as the dance form. It moves from frenzy to a lyrical, romantic section rife with sustained cello notes that purposely wilt in pitch as one would in the arms of a 7-foot partner, in this case the Belanich Steinway. I've never heard Brey play better.
Four violins and a double bass became the traditional group for which Piazzolla wrote (Bandoneon, piano, violin, electric guitar and bass) in the world premiere of his Tango Suite as arranged by Julian Milone. The tangos within are "La Muerte del Angel," "Vayamos al Diablo," "Oblivion" and "Libertango." Let it be said that the violinists "” Gil Shaham, Kyoko Takezawa, Cho-Liang Lin and Margaret Batjer "” and bassist Chris Hanulik threw themselves into the work with precise abandon. That may sound like an oxymoron, but it's not. All present had a marvelous time. Then the evening got more exciting.
Hanulik, Lin, Takezawa and Batjer were joined by violinist Jasmine Lin, violists Che-Yen Chen and Elzbieta Weyman, and cellists Jacob Braun and Yves Dharamra in Golijov's stunning 1996 homage to Piazzolla, "Lost Round" for Double String Quartet and Bass. All these magnificent players got star turns in various combinations, accompanied by the others. Everyone literally leaned into the work, which was so amazing that many felt like screaming when it was over. Some did.
No one left, because Johannes Brahms' Piano Trio in B Major, Opus 8, was up next with Ohlsson, Shaham and Brey. The performance was marked by ravishingly lovely sound and, above all, grace, deeply felt collaborative sensitivity and brio. Brahms has a way of putting our world back into focus.
This weekend at SummerFest features SummerFest Commissions at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Aug. 8 at the Birch North Park Theatre and Russian Kaleidoscope at 3 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 10 at Sherwood. Tuesday next week it's Brahms and Schumann; and on Wednesday, "An Evening With" pianist Vladimir Feltsman. And don't forget the free concert at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 14 at La Jolla Cove. SummerFest continues through Aug. 24. For details and ticket availability visit www.lajollamusicsociety.org or call (858) 459-3728.