Opening its latest Southern California season, titled “Sudden Exposure,” as well as the 1985-86 concert year at the UCLA Center for the Arts, the Kronos Quartet brought another intriguing new program to Schoenberg Hall Auditorium on the Westwood campus Friday night.
Unfamiliar composers were represented in the first Los Angeles performances of David Kosviner’s “Ciascun Apra Ben gli Orecchi” (1982) and Jon Hassell’s “Pano da Costa” (1985), both works surrounding Henri Dutilleux’s “Ainsi la Nuit,” before intermission. After, the Kronos ensemble gave, with guest artists Sally Chisholm (viola) and Fritz Magg (cello), a revival of Arnold Schoenberg’s “Verklaerte Nacht.”
For both the energy and suavity of the performances, it was a special evening; a bonus lay in the fact that the approving and attentive audience contained a large number of composers.
Eclectic to a fault, Kosviner’s brief (12 minutes), two-part piece dabbles in a number of 20th-Century procedures. Though his materials may be a hodgepodge, the resulting mix can be absorbing and even convincing. Similarly, Hassell’s colorful musical fabric--its title means “Cloth From the Coast"--uses ethnic, folk and rhythmic elements to create a most pleasant, if innocuous, sound-construct, not unlike aural wallpaper. Ernesto Lecuona would have recognized the combination.
Most interesting, Dutilleux’s integrated, seven-movement sound-mural (with space-age references for movement titles) is a night-piece juxtaposing rich harmonies with futuristic sound effects in an aggressive musical scenario. It demands serious listening, as well as immediate rehearing. The four members of Kronos--violinists David Harrington and John Sherba, violist Hank Dutt and cellist Joan Jeanrenaud--gave it, as well as the adjacent works, polished readings.
With their guests, they did the same for Schoenberg’s farewell to the 19th Century, “Verklaerte Nacht.” This particular reading may have been bass-heavy, the two cellists dominating the performance, yet it proved deeply satisfying in continuity and single-mindedness.
Visually, this event offered two distinctions: the unaccountably harsh lighting put on the musicians in the first half and the new concert clothes the quartet now wears. The handiwork of San Francisco costume designer Sandra Woodall, the new uniform looks like a stylized pilot’s jacket over parachutist’s pants--not unlike what the Jetsons wear--the top worn over individual, fabric-decorated, long-sleeved T-shirts. The total effect is one of comfort and contemporaneity, and one that complements the ensemble’s music making.