Out West Arts: Performance at the end of the world

Opera, music, theater, and art in Los Angeles and beyond

Daddy never sleeps at night

December 09, 2008

Teodoro Anzellotti
Photo: mine 2008

Monday marked the return and 70th anniversary of one of the pillars of the Los Angeles contemporary music scene, the Monday Evening Concerts Series, entering its third year at the Zipper Concert Hall downtown. Director Justin Urcis’ very unassuming introduction failed to acknowledge what appeared to be yet another near capacity crowd for this series that seems to grow and grow in popularity after being declared all but dead after it’s infamous eviction from the grounds of LACMA. It was another show that exemplified the organization’s commitment to a wide gamut of performers and composers and its willingness to bring new and unfamiliar works to local audiences.

The theme was “The Avant-Garde Through the Ages” which was described as an examination of techniques and strategies in avant-garde musical practice over different centuries. While I’m not sure how well this concept actually held together, it did provide an opportunity to hear some very exciting performances. In the first half of the program, soprano Phoebe Jevtovic Aleander was accompanied by Shira Kammen and Susan Feldman on vielles for a number of 14th and 15th century French songs. Considered radical in approach at the time, the songs continue to have a rather surreal quality. A number of the works make repeated reference to people “smoking” despite the fact that tobacco had yet to be introduced to this part of the world at the time.

There were several contemporary pieces on the program that may have been similar in tactics but with far less melodic results. Michael Maierhof’s Sugar 1, an exploded piano trio, was expertly played by California EAR Unit players Amy Knoles, Eric km Clark, and Erika Duke-Kirkpatrick. Later, Kuniko Kato and Movses Pogossian performed Keiko Harada’s Bone # which features an amplified and retuned kalimba in a variety of ethereal effects.

However, the centerpiece and real star of the show was guest artist Teodoro Anzellotti who has championed the accordion as a player in contemporary music by commissioning several works for his instrument by various major contemporary composers. Two of those works he is most known for were featured here including Berio’s Sequenza XII and Globokar’s Dialog Über Luft. The latter piece in particular was exciting for its playfulness and experimentation with the very idea of the accordion itself. By calling attention to the working of the accordion and playing with the notion of a mechanical “lung”, Globokar’s score calls for a variety of breathing maneuvers from the performer occurring both in and out of sync with the instrument. Anzellotti’s virtuosity eclipses standard perceptions of the accordion and I myself was struck with how little I had imagined was capable from this instrument. And for good measure, Anzellotti threw in a 17th-century work by Froberger recounting a fatal fall by an amateur lutist acquaintance. I'll leave the rest to your imagination.

The MEC series has three more shows in the early part of next year and I would encourage you to check them out on their site and in person downtown.


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