MUSIC REVIEW : Latin Works at Monday Series

Times Music Writer

Recent music by composers from Mexico, Puerto Rico, Venezuela and Cuba made up the fascinating program at Monday Evening Concerts at the County Musuem. Happily, an audience both large and festive attended.

Max Lifchitz, Manuel Enriquez, Roberto Sierra, Aurelio de la Vega and Ricardo Lorenz were the composers (born between 1925 and 1958) represented. Except for cogency and integrity of idiom, their works on this agenda shared no special connection or stylistic similarities. But all proved serious--if not self-consciously so--imaginatively structured and intriguing.

Conducted by Juan-Felipe Orrego, the premiere performance of Lorenz’s “Poemas de Amor e Irreverencia,” in its chamber version, made the most impact.

On witty but not lightweight texts of his friend and musical colleague, Manuel Losada, Lorenz has fashioned four pungent, emotionally complex and artfully balanced songs for tenor and large instrumental ensemble.


In its cabaret style, the work pays amusing homage to the ghost of Kurt Weill--but there is more to Lorenz’s resonant word-settings than derivativeness. Parts of the text are double-edged and/or ambiguous; particular moments invite contradictory reactions. The performance, by tenor Reuven Senger Aristiqueta, conductor Orrego and an 11-member ensemble, moved with deftness and confidence.

If Lorenz’s 20-minute entertainment seemed Continental and indoorsy, De la Vega’s six-year old “Tropimapal"--first introduced by the American Chamber Symphony in West Los Angeles in early 1983--remains refreshingly American and bucolic. Like other De la Vega works, this one is sophisticated, layered and imaginative.

It takes 10 players through an organized jungle of melodic fragments, contrapuntal byways, accessible rhythms and chaotic climaxes. Orrego & Co. made aural, textural and structural sense.

Lifchitz conducted his own “Night Voices,” No. 8, for seven players, an apparently narrative piece--a soap opera for marimba and small ensemble--which fills a quarter-hour with steady musical activity, some of it related to pop currents.


Playing Enriquez’s new solo-piano piece, “Maxienia,” Lifchitz often clarified its atonal convolutions, sometimes revealed hidden melodic pathways and regularly indicated the esoteric nature of its components. All in seven minutes.

Karen Yarmat was the authoritative singer in Sierra’s “Invocaciones” (1986) for soprano and two percussion-players, a canvas of folk-like expressions in which the principal sometimes plays percussion and the drummers sometimes sing. Her expert collaborators were Amy Knoles and Arthur Jarvinen.