The fifth annual Santa Barbara Beethovenfest lit up the Marjorie Luke Theatre last weekend with a pair of chamber concerts that displayed the composer’s spiritual and introspective qualities.
The second concert Saturday evening was a privilege to attend. I was unable to attend the Friday night offering of the Trio Opus 11 in B Flat Major and the Sonata, Opus 5 in G minor, as well as two works by Fredric Chopin.
Saturday’s performance was more than sufficient, offering W.A. Mozart’s Sonata KV 296 in C major for violin and piano, and two Beethoven sonatas, one for piano solo and one for cello and piano. The Marjorie Luke Auditorium was perhaps only one-third full, but the audience rewarded the musicians with generous applause.
The capstone of the program was the second half, consisting of Beethoven’s Sonata, Opus 69 in A major, with Christine Walevska playing cello and Robert Else at the piano. The program notes quoted scholar Lewis Lockwood, who called this sonata “one of the most intricate and beautiful chamber music compositions.”
Walevska wore a striking gown of the same red as the poinsettias on the stage, reflecting her assurance with the cello. The piece has four movements — allegro, scherzo, adagio cantabile and the closing allegro vivace. She brought out the drama in the scherzo and played the final movement with great style.
Pianist Ashley Hsu, already a self-assured performer at 15, played Beethoven’s Sonata Opus 81a, “Les Adieux,” with all the appropriate feelings. It was the composer’s salute to the young Archduke Rudolph, who left Vienna as Napoleon’s army advanced on the city. The movements are The Farewell, Absence and The Reunion. Hsu’s interpretation moved from sadness at the departure to heartfelt power at the end. She has won a number of important competitions and clearly is destined for a distinguished career as a concert artist.
The program opened with the Mozart, a mature work played by violinist Barbara Coventry and Allen Bishop at the piano. Coventry played with the Santa Barbara Symphony for years, and now teaches, composes and plays in a band called Paradise Road. Her performance here showed her devotion to Mozart, and Bishop gave her sterling support.
The community is very much in debt to the Santa Barbara Music Club, which founded Beethovenfest. It is a rare treat to hear these artists in works of this caliber.