Marshall Bialosky likes to ham it up. Perhaps the products of teaching composition for 25 years, his simple, tonal pieces lie comfortably in an academic posture that rarely challenges but often cracks a musical joke or two.
Bialosky celebrated his 65th birthday and announced his retirement Saturday night with a concert of six of his works at University Theatre, Cal State Dominguez Hills. A full house of friends, family and students attended.
In the premiere of "Birds, Bees, and Butterflies," a quaint setting of 14 poems by Emily Dickinson for soprano, woodwind quintet and harp, the instruments imitated insects, birds and frogs. Soprano Katherine Peters sang with richness of tone but was often drowned out by the instruments.
Percussionist David Johnson stole the show performing the premiere of a humorous theme and variations for solo marimba, "Carman's Whistle, or Byrd's and Bizet's." Donned in toreador costume, he skillfully delivered blatant quotes from Bizet's "Carmen," while whistling and singing with his page-turner, Delores Stevens.
Two works from the early 1950s, the well-crafted Sonata for Solo Violin and 12 piano pieces entitled "An Album for the Young," found little variance in style from Bialosky's more recent works. Violinist Toni Marcus performed adroitly while pianist Stevens delivered the intermediate pieces with aplomb.
Opening the evening was "Six Movements for Five Brass," a 12-tone study that precariously maintains a tonal posture, deftly performed by the Mondavi Brass Quintet. In closing, the CSU Dominguez Hills Jubilee Choir anemically rendered the slightly condescending "Four Black Spirituals," two of them premieres.