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Music Reviews : Chamber Group Plays Latino Music at LMU

Wednesday night at Loyola Marymount University the Viklarbo Chamber Ensemble began a four-concert series entitled “Evolutions in Harmony,” devoted to music by Latino, Asian, black and women composers. This first event explored Latino music from the ‘40s, ‘50s, and ‘80s.

As if underlining the diversity of which Cuban-American composer Aurelio de la Vega spoke in his pre-concert talk, the repertory presented eluded neat categorization. The pieces had very little in common with each other stylistically.

In fact, one would even have been hard pressed to identify Latino elements in the music at all. An uninformed listener might just have easily concluded that this was a concert of, say, contemporary Canadian music.

The performances, by Viklarbo with guests, proved solid but not overly persuasive. The music seemed only slightly less new to the performers than it did to the listener. The works themselves also fell into the solid rather than inspired category: no masterpieces here. A program of better, and perhaps more representative, music would not have been too difficult to assemble.

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Still, there were small pleasures to be had. The 1987 Duo for Violin and Cello by American-born composer Carlos Rodriguez proved engaging with its Bartokian counterpoint and assertiveness and use of open strings in a wheezing chorale.

Villa-Lobos’ Duo for Violin and Viola (1945) likewise captivated with its sophisticated rhythmic play and melodiousness. Both works were capably dispatched by violinist Maria Newman and, respectively, cellist Sebastian Toettcher and guest violist Adriana Zoppo.

The longest 15 minutes on the concert belonged to Mexican composer Carlos Sanchez-Gutierrez’s “The Loon’s Chant” (1987) for clarinet and piano, which uses extended techniques to create a spacious but unfocused soundscape--page turns became an event.

De la Vega’s “Leyenda de Ariel Criollo” (1953), a pensively lyrical, pan-tonal work for cello and piano, and Chilean Juan Orrego-Salas’ Sextet for Clarinet, String Quartet and Piano (1954), attractively cosmopolitan but inconsistently interesting, rounded out the program.

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