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MUSIC REVIEW : DE LA VEGA HONORED AT CAL STATE NORTHRIDGE

To heap the happiest birthday honors on a composer is simple: Produce a concert of his music. Doing so can hardly fail to please the celebrant, since the chance to hear a full agenda of one’s labors of love is rare.

Aurelio de la Vega, now 60, had such a momentous event Thursday when his fellow faculty members at Cal State Northridge put together an evening of the Cuban-born composer’s works.

A resident of Los Angeles since 1959, he has acquired enough friends and admirers and colleagues who hold him in high regard to fill three halls. And on this occasion it seemed as if they all threatened to swarm the stuffy campus recital hall, with ushers putting folding chairs on stage and in the aisles.

Not only that, many arrived late and continued to stream through the door throughout the late-starting program. But the assembled musicians--among them Los Angeles’ finest--did De la Vega proud, despite the distractions.

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The four pieces in the bill of fare spanned two decades and ranged over various stylistic modes. Yet the mark of a distinctive composer can be heard regardless of any passing influence, and such was this case.

De la Vega writes music of remarkably subtle coloristic effects and characteristically indefinite design. There is a bit of the maverick in him--the insistence on breaking whatever rhythmic pulse he manages to achieve briefly with knuckle-rapping punctuations or desultory phrases that simply dissipate.

He also tends to think in disjunct terms, breaking materials apart and allowing little eddies of action to occur unto themselves. These traits were as evident in “Labdanum,” an exotic trio that abounds in non-formality, as in the other entries.

“Galandiacoa,” which guitarist Stuart Fox and clarinetist Julian Spear played with ravishing sensuality, also required them to produce the fashionable spurts-squalls-rasps-peeps effects. Most engaging, however, was “Structures” for piano and string quartet--its driving intensity, forward motion and angular outcries a respite from the norm.

After “Tropimapal,” the largest work and one conducted authoritatively by Daniel Kessner, De la Vega received awards and told the crowd “how moved” he was.

“I knew I had many enemies,” he said. “I didn’t know how many friends I had.”


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