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MUSIC REVIEWS : New Works From XTET

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The Los Angeles-based chamber ensemble XTET--the “X” in this case being a variable number of players, between 2 and 12--presented a program of world premieres and other new works on the latest Monday Evening Concert, a noble, challenging and sometimes frustrating effort.

The first performance of Arthur Jarvinen’s “The Modulus of Elasticity” is a case in point. It is written for seven players divided into opposing teams, with one becoming increasingly obsessed by a decreasing number of notes, the other inscrutably reiterating and expanding upon its set of notes.

A slippery, warped viola solo splits the work’s halves. A squawk from an electric cornemuse drones insistently. A constant rhythmic jaggedness needles the listener. One wants to break out; that may be what the piece is after.

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Douglas R. Davis’ “Green Light,” a setting of a satiric poem by Kenneth Fearing, for soprano and mixed sextet (also a world premiere), seemed inappropriately surreal, considering the curtness of its text.

Most immediate in its appeal in this concert at the L.A. County Museum of Art, was the first movement of David Rosenboom’s “The Seduction of Sapientia” (1974), an attractive piece of chugging, cyclic minimalism, with a center vamp underneath improvisatory solos.

Charles Ives’s poignant, 30-second “Remembrance,” for soprano, piano, offstage violin and flute, opened the event in literal darkness, followed by his “Sunrise,” and light. Lukas Foss’s 1960 “Time Cycle,” his chronometric, claustrophobic setting of texts by Auden, Housman, Kafka and Nietszche, rounded out the event.

XTET performed solidly throughout, with special relish in the Rosenboom; Daisietta Kim sang with conviction and clarity.

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