Review: Italian performers impress at Encinitas’ Tramonto Music Festival

International musicians performed at the Tramonto Music Festival in Encinitas.
International musicians performed at the Tramonto Music Festival, held last weekend at the Encinitas Public Library.
(Courtesy of Christian Hertzog)

On Friday evening, Aug. 4, I went to a music festival that featured outstanding international performers playin 20th-century music.

Here’s the kicker: it wasn’t SummerFest.

It was the second evening of the weekend-long Tramonto Music Festival, held at the Encinitas Public Library. The concert was called “Yellow Beach.”

Encinitas Library sits a few blocks up the hill from Highway 101. Instead of a wall on the west side of the performance space, there is a solid glass window. You can’t see the beach from there, but you can see the ocean, with a few tall palm silhouettes swaying against the setting sun.

The stage is in front of this window, a gorgeous background for the performers.

If no beach was visible inside, there was nevertheless a conspicuous Beach in the gallery: Amy Beach, America’s first great female composer. Her Piano Trio, op. 150 was her last significant piece of chamber music, composed in 1938 when she was 71 years old. The harmonies and forms were old-fashioned for the time, but it is a well-constructed piece, at times tinged with mystery and at others exuding bravado. It still merits hearing today.

The performers were all from Italy. Violinist Anastasiya Petryshak had a silvery, singing tone that soared above the ensemble. Cellist Ludovica Rana’s focused, cantabile playing matched well with Petryshak. Maddalena Giacopuzzi was a sensitive collaborator who made the most of her solo passages. Their ensemble work was flawless.

Before Beach, the program commenced appropriately with Philip Glass’ solo piano work, “Opening.” Maddalena’s brother Jacopo Giacopuzzi played it, more lushly than the composer did and with more graceful voicings. All the repeats were not observed, an omen of abbreviated performances to come.

Following Beach, clarinetist Alessandro Beverari took the stage for Bernstein’s Sonata for Clarinet and Piano, composed in his early 20s. The first movement is strongly influenced by Hindemith’s neoclassicism, a compositional style that quickly waned in Bernstein’s subsequent works. However, the second (and final) movement displays the influence of Copland’s chip-on-the-shoulder, bad-boy-jazz-tweaked music from the 1920s , a fertile vein that Bernstein would continue to mine for the rest of his career.

The clarinet part is acrobatic; Beverari negotiated its leaps and frenetic phrasing with nimble dexterity, with Jacopo Giacopuzzi chugging along beside him.

The two gentlemen later performed Robert Russell Bennett’s jazzy medley arrangement of Gershwin’s “Embraceable You” and “I Got Rhythm,” with idiomatic articulations and phrasing.

Petryshak and Jacopo Giacopuzzi gave a lively reading of the first two movements of John Corigliano’s Violin Sonata from 1964. Copland cast a long shadow over this Sonata as well—the mature, populist Copland from the late ‘30s and 1940s. Petryshak was powerful and scintillating in her reading, but Giacopuzzi could have toned down his accompaniment— at times it was impossible to hear the violinist, even from the third row.

Michael Nyman’s music works best when he writes for his own amplified piano, strings and brass band, or for orchestra. His purely acoustic chamber music has always struck me as less consequential, and “Yellow Beach,” given a solid performance by Petryshak, Rana, and Maddalena Giacopuzzi, did little to dispel my prejudice.

The concert concluded with Petryshak, Rana, Beverari, and Jacopo Giacopuzzi on stage for the last two movements of Peter Schickele’s Quartet for Clarinet, Violin, Violoncello, and Piano. It was innocuous, fun and immediately forgettable music that was well played by Petryshak, Rana, and Beverari. Again, Jacopo Giacopuzzi at times drowned out his companions, despite his otherwise impressive technical skills.

I would rather have heard the complete Corigliano Violin Sonata instead, but it was an otherwise pleasant evening of excellently performed music.

— Hertzog is a freelance writer for The San Diego Union-Tribune