Music Review : E.A.R. Unit in Pacific Rim Festival Prelude at CSLA

The Pacific Contemporary Music Festival is going on the road this year, with four concerts in Korea next month. A concert by the California E.A.R. Unit Friday at the Cal State Los Angeles Music Hall served as a festival prelude, however.

Actually, the industrious E.A.R. Unit--which appeared in concert at the County Museum of Art the week before and is a mainstay of the Ojai Festival next weekend--had relatively little to do as an ensemble. The bulk of the program was devoted to colorful solo pieces, half of them played by guests.

Dorothy Stone began the proceedings with Bernardo Feldman's "Onirica," a vivid collage of live and taped flute passages and vocal cries and whispers. Dimming the lighting at the end boosted the surface drama, without suggesting any hidden depths to the febrile music.

Peter Terry's "A Halo of Dark Stars" proved equally vivid and dramatic, with a synthesized pop coloring. Lucia Unrau provided pointed, bravura playing at a MIDI keyboard, while the composer--of the Cal State Los Angeles faculty--supervised a table full of electronic gear.

Toshiro Mayazumi's "Bunraku" makes its case without electronic assistance, but is as sonically bold as the others and ultimately more affecting in its transformation of traditional Japanese materials. Cellist Erica Duke was the expressive, virtuosic protagonist.

"Go-Pung," a four-movement suite of character etudes for solo piano by Chung-Gil Kim, recycled Debussy and Liszt without enriching or renewing the language. Paul van Ness of the Cal State faculty coped stoically with the limited expressive range of the ostinatos and fragmented melodic gestures.

Joan Tower's "Petroushskates" also relies on ostinatos and a recycled harmonic and motivic framework, here of specific identity. But her quintet for mixed ensemble has great motor energy and effectively transmutes its materials into some vivacious chamber pop. Amy Knoles conducted five Uniteers in a crisp, ingratiating reading.

The other ensemble piece on the program was Burt Goldstein's nervously bopping, purposefully shaped "Trielynvar." Pianist Gaylord Mowrey provided the climactic cadenza heroics, in a taut performance with flutist Stone and Knoles on vibes.

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