At 71, George Perle, winner of a 1986 Pulitzer Prize for his Fourth Woodwind Quintet, is a composer much admired but not much performed--at least not in California.
The New-York based musician--who has taught at Queens College in Brooklyn for the past quarter-century--is now seeing a reversal of his fortunes in this state. Earlier this month, he was composer-in-residence at the annual festival of new music at Cal State Sacramento. There, Perle heard a number of performances of music he has written, including piano pieces, the Fourth Wind Quintet and, as played by the Kronos Quartet on a program devoted entirely to Perle works, the Fifth String Quartet.
Today, Perle will be in Pasadena, when the Dorian Woodwind Quintet, for whom the Fourth Wind Quintet was composed, introduces it to Southern California on a program also including works by Mozart and Reicha. Joining the ensemble in Mozart's Quintet for winds and piano, K. 452, will be Minoru Nojima. Now celebrating its 25th anniversary, the Dorian Quintet comprises flutist Elizabeth Mann, oboist Gerard Reuter, clarinetist Jerry Kirkbride, bassoonist Jane Taylor and hornist David Jolley.
About his prize-winning piece (1984), which the Dorians first introduced at Perle's 70th-birthday concert at Merkin Hall in New York City in May of 1985, the composer has said: "The title of the first movement, 'Invention,' was suggested by Bach of course, but it departs from the Bach model in its continual change of texture and in the frequent interpolation of purely chordal progressions." The remaining movements are titled Scherzo, Pastorale and Finale.
Perle says his writing style "has been misunderstood," in part because he has written books on serial composition yet does not consider himself a serial composer.
"I call my language '12-tone tonality,' " he said, on the phone from Sacramento last week. "That is not the same as serialism. The serial method is one way of using 12-tone material, but not the only way. Many composers of this century, including Bartok, used a 12-tone tonality in the same way that composers of the previous century used a seven-tone tonality."
Perle sees the language of 12 tones as the currency of our times. Thus, he has no admiration for those composers, like David del Tredici and Philip Glass, who say they are "restoring tonality"; from Perle's point of view, they are only regressing.
"Besides," the composer observes, "they are using that style only in a parodistic way. At no point in history was tonality about repeating two chords 500 times. A total composer doesn't simply reiterate his material."
AT THE PHILHARMONIC: Swedish soprano Elisabeth Soederstroem makes belated debut appearances with the Los Angeles Philharmonic this week. In concerts in the Pavilion of the Music Center, Thursday and Friday nights and next Sunday afternoon (and Saturday night in Santa Barbara), Soederstroem will sing two excerpts from Berg's "Wozzeck" and the Closing Scene from Richard Strauss' "Capriccio." Music director Andre Previn will conduct, preceding the Berg excerpts with Mozart's Symphony No. 29, the Strauss scene with Haydn's Symphony No. 96 ("Miracle").
Under Philharmonic auspices, another internationally acclaimed singer, mezzo-soprano Teresa Berganza, appears in recital in the pavilion, Wednesday night at 8. Assisted by pianist Juan-Antonio Alvares-Parejo, Berganza will sing songs and arias by Pergolesi, Handel, Rossini, Thomas, Massenet, Turina, Montsalvatge, Granados and Falla.
And Monday night, in Gindi Auditorium at the University of Judaism, Andre Previn will appear as pianist in the first Philharmonic Chamber Music Society program of the season. For the 8 p.m. concert, Previn will play, with violinist Sidney Weiss, cellist Ronald Leonard, and flutist Anne Diener Giles, sonatas by Brahms, Franck and Prokofiev, respectively.