A month of USC-sponsored activities celebrating the creative output of Polish composer Witold Lutoslawski ended Monday night at Ambassador Auditorium when the USC Symphony, led by Daniel Lewis, introduced "Mi-parti" during a Gold Medal series concert.
While the events on the university campus were structured to enlighten and stimulate, the concert at Ambassador apparently was intended to keep the audience in the dark. The skimpy insert merely recounted the date of composition (1976) and the fact that this was the work's West Coast premiere.
Research revealed that the 15-minute opus was commissioned by the Concertgebouw of Amsterdam. The title, according to musicologist Malcolm Rayment, indicates "two equal although not identical parts," a reference to the manner in which musical thought is developed.
From the eerie opening glissandos in the strings to the final extended chord, the music uses a variety of orchestral effects--the sort of massed, non-rhythmic statements that Bartok and Stravinsky had explored in many of their quieter moments. Skillfully interwoven, "Mi-parti" proved a captivating listening experience in its disciplined structure and unbending line of tension. Lewis skillfully maintained pace and balance while drawing a committed performance from his charges.
Australian cellist Catherine Hewgill, a student of Gabor Rejto at USC, brought lightness and vigor to her reading of Haydn's C-major Concerto, although her phrasing often tended toward the squarish and occasional technical mishaps intruded. Lewis displayed attentiveness as an accompanist.
The energy and brightness of the orchestra were revealed in the concert's opening and closing works: Mozart's "Impressario" overture and Ravel's "Alborada del Gracioso," respectively. Both received stylish, technically polished readings.