Mozart fills in for Labeques' deported percussionist

Times Staff Writer

Duo pianists Katia and Marielle Labeque gave a bipolar program Thursday at UCLA's Royce Hall. It wasn't what they originally planned. It wasn't their fault.

A Latin-themed suite from Bernstein's "West Side Story" had to be canceled when an immigration official in Atlanta ordered Cuban-born percussionist Julio Barreto deported to his home in Switzerland last week at the start of the Labeques' North American tour. Exit Bernstein. Enter Mozart, Ravel and a solo for British percussionist Colin Currie, who had passed immigration muster.

But there was more. Composer Dave Maric, whose "Exile" was supposed to receive its U.S. premiere in Los Angeles, had to fly to New Jersey, where the Labeque team learned of Barreto's fate. Maric quickly reconstructed the computer-enhanced parts of "Exile," as well as of "Trilogy," Currie's UCLA solo, and the show went on in Princeton. "Exile" got its first hearing there, but Maric also came to Los Angeles to play synthesizer in the piece.

So the Royce Hall audience veered from Mozart's Sonata in D for Two Pianos, K. 488, to Maric's solo for computer and live percussion solo, to Gershwin's Three Preludes, Maric's larger work for two pianos, live percussion and live electronics and Ravel's "Rhapsodie espagnole." It was a heady experience.

The Labeques were lyrical and whimsical in Mozart -- although his harmonies were clotted by the resonant sonorities of two modern Steinway grands -- and playfully jazzy in Gershwin. In his solo, Currie was nimble and dazzling in executing Maric's mind-bending rhythms.

"Exile" is a lively, evocative, complex piece that incorporates the sounds of music from around the world and the styles of Western art music. It works chronologically backward, starting with minimalist gestures and moving to a stately, Bach-like section before returning to the opening energy. But what were then starts and stops now become tight and continuous. If the title is meant to evoke a desolate image, the ending suggests triumph.

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