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Music and Dance Reviews : Ensemble Plays Works by Faculty Composers

There are lots of university composers writing lots of music, some of it very good. But much of the music exhibits a kind of sonic anemia, the symptoms of which include dullness of rhythm, textural sameness and a marked avoidance of drama. There were at least three case studies of the malady on display Wednesday at Cal State Northridge, the site of a faculty composers recital.

Hardly affected by the syndrome, however, was Daniel Kessner’s Chamber Concerto No. 4. There wasn’t much melodic activity of interest, but a good deal of rhythmic, timbral and above all textural variety, and Kessner’s sense of proportion proved unusually keen. Under the baton of the composer, seven members of the CSN New Music Ensemble gave a surprisingly ragged performance.

Severely smitten with academic tediosis was William Toutant’s “Small Suite for Piano.” With its ceaseless motoric rhythm and lack of melodic direction, the work imparted no sense of purpose, Kary Kramer’s attentive reading notwithstanding.

Frank Campo’s Concerto for Piano With Winds and Percussion displayed more textural and timbral variety, but one grew tired of the same old brass barks and tone clusters repeated again and again. Francoise Regnat brought energy and virtuosity to the solo part, and members of the CSN Wind Ensemble, conducted by Kessner, played serviceably.

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One could find rhythmic interest in Aurelio de la Vega’s “Magias e Invenciones,” a setting of five poems by Gaston Baquero--but only in the piano part (superbly played by Delores Stevens). The vocal part, delivered without much poetic insight by soprano Anne Marie Ketchum, consisted of a series of slow, disjunct and rather amorphous melodic lines.


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