CLASSICAL MUSIC : Israeli Composer's Acclaim Not Enough to Pay the Bills

The plight of today's aspiring young composer is remarkably similar to Mozart's situation in Vienna two centuries ago. Musical compositions, no matter how splendid or well-received, just don't pay the bills, according to Israeli composer Ronn Yedidia.

"I really have to balance several careers at the same time," said Yedidia from his New York apartment. "I do a little teaching and some professional accompanying (he is also a pianist), but what I make from commissions is not nearly enough to make a living." In Vienna, Mozart gave concerts and piano lessons to children of the nobility to keep himself solvent between commissions.

Yedidia enjoyed a prodigious start in his native country, winning his first prize for a musical composition at the age of 8. In 1982, he moved to New York City to complete his education at Juilliard and establish himself as a composer. At the ripe old age of 30, Yedidia is still working on both projects, although his doctoral program at Juilliard is but a year short of its completion, he said.

Yedidia's first piano concerto will be premiered by Kenneth Bookstein at 8 p.m. Thursday at La Jolla's Sherwood Auditorium. Bookstein's piano recital, which opens the La Jolla Athenaeum's arts festival week, was written for him, after he and Yedidia met when they were taking classes at Juilliard.

The new work's full title is Concerto for Piano and Electronic Instruments, which makes it like a Baroque concerto grosso in its structure. In addition to the demanding solo piano part, three solo electronic instruments are synthesized and played by a computer against the piano part. In La Jolla, only the piano and electronic portions of the concerto will he heard. According to the composer, the work's ideal version is one with piano, computer, 40-piece orchestra and chorus. Yedidia is still hoping to find an angel to underwrite this ambitious project, which is only his second work for orchestra. The remainder of his compositional output is equally divided between piano works and chamber music.

Although some of Yedidia's music has a distinct jazz influence--his performing quartet "Prophets" has made recordings that fuse jazz and classical styles--his 30-minute, one-movement piano concerto is decidedly abstract and complex.

"Since I am a serious pianist, my keyboard style requires a virtuoso player for the sheer physical requirements, as well as for the usual interpretive nuance," he said.

The composer will attend Thursday's premiere. At this stage of his career, public acclaim is his most satisfying remuneration.

"Recently I've had a lot of response to my music, especially in Germany and in the Soviet Union. This year, a colleague of mine, Anton Rovner, took over a sampling of my piano compositions to play in Moscow and Gorky, and the Israeli pianist Natasha Tadson favorably impressed Russian audiences with my Third Piano Sonata. These responses encourage me to keep composing, in spite of the modest monetary rewards."

La Jolla housewarming. To celebrate its move into a recently renovated building at Wall and Girard streets, the La Jolla Athenaeum, a private music and arts library, is presenting an arts festival July 12-16. Last year when the La Jolla branch of the San Diego Public Library moved out of the Athenaeum's corner building into new quarters, the Athenaeum board hired architect David Raphael Singer to design an expansion into the vacant building.

In addition to Kenneth Bookstein's Thursday night piano recital at Sherwood Hall, the Athenaeum will hold a children's arts program on Saturday morning and a salsa street party with the 10-piece salsa band "Afro-Rumba" on Sunday afternoon in the 1000 block of Wall Street.

On Monday, the Pacific Trio and clarinetist David Peck will perform at a noon mini-concert in the Athenaeum, continuing that laudable 20-year institution of free noontime programs in the library's intimate setting. (And as a bonus before Monday's concert, I will give a semi-serious lecture titled "As You've Suspected, the Critics are Usually Wrong.")

Pennies from heaven. San Diego Opera general director Ian Campbell confirmed that the company has received an $87,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts to support San Diego's 1990-91 opera season. The amount of this year's grant, which is the same as the 1989 NEA grant, "is fair, given the current circumstances of the NEA," Campbell said. Each year the NEA's opera-musical theater category awards more than 100 grants worth $4.65 million to professional companies. In the announcement of the grant, the NEA panel noted approvingly San Diego Opera's inclusion of two recent 20th-Century operas in its five-opera 1990-91 season.

Rocky Mountain high point. San Diego's Westwind Brass won the $2,000 third prize in the Keystone Brass Institute Chamber Music Competition on June 13 in Keystone, Colo. This was the local brass quintet's first competition attempt, and, according to Westwind's principal trumpet, David Sabon, the group's strong showing among the six semifinalists who were invited to the Colorado contest proved a great morale booster. The competition's first prize ($5,000) was given to the Interstate Brass Quintet, made up of students at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, N.Y., and second prize ($3,000) was landed by the St. Louis Conservatory Brass Quintet. Westwind Brass can be heard regularly on the sports deck of Horton Plaza from noon to 2 p.m.

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