MUSIC REVIEW : Pianists Bring Musical Grayness to Monday Evening Concert
One of the more consistent, technically able and musically astute pianists of her generation, Ursula Oppens seems rarely to give a performance that is less than engrossing. But the New Yorker did so Monday night, when, with Frederic Rzewski, they offered a 20th-Century program of music for two pianos.
The event was the first Monday Evening Concert of 1995, in comfortable Bing Theater at the L.A. County Museum of Art, but it proved, despite the appearance of three premieres on the agenda, not quite compelling.
Oppens simply became underemployed during these proceedings, while composer Rzewski failed to bring enough pianistic color to his playing to capture and carry much interest.
Most engaging of the five works heard was Lois Vierk’s newish “Spin 2,” a highly percussive, colorful and virtuosic piece that keeps the pot boiling; cannily, it balances exoticism and noise, giving both players much to accomplish.
Least engaging was Rzewski’s own “Night Crossing With Fisherman,” a showpiece for him, but not for his partner. It contains so many starts and stops, its musical scenario, which extends to a marathon 26 minutes, gets lost in apparent fragmentation. The piece seems to have no direction, and a quasi-political, electronically produced, spoken-word coda becomes tacked-on, not organic.
The U.S. premiere of Christian Wolff’s recent “Two Pianists” also failed to thrill; it appears to be a set of free-ranging, atonal variations, unconnected to each other in style, tempo or character.
The pianists began the evening with an honest but unpolished, certainly unprobed, reading of Schoenberg’s own, two-piano version of his Chamber Symphony No. 2. It ended with Rzewski’s tedious “Winnsboro Cotton Mill Blues” (1980).