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More on MEC

January 08, 2008

Donald Crockett, soprano Susan Narucki, and members of XTET
Photo: mine 2008

Is there any doubt that the Monday Evening Concert series is becoming the premiere venue for contemporary classical music in LA? There shouldn’t be. And in a town that has a reputation for broad-based interest in contemporary music to begin with, MEC is a very good place to be. If you don’t believe me, ask the near-capacity crowd at Zipper Hall downtown for last night's show ”Exercises En Route." A show, I would mention, that did not feature a big name "curator" or out of town guest celebrity. It’s hard to believe this series has grown from the ashes of its once-abandoned predecessor over at LACMA in less than two short years.

Tuesday’s program was structured around works developed in the wake of Schoenberg’s Pierrot lunaire - if not in musical structure, at least in terms of their reliance on similar ensembles. The first half of the program included a number of shorter works starting with Donald Crockett’s witty and energetic Whistling in the Dark that the composer himself conducted. Following this was Oliver Knussen’s Cantata, a string quartet with oboe substituting for the second violin. It was a spot-on performance masterfully handled, as were all of the pieces, by members of XTET. Prior to intermission, an expanded group gave voice to Carlo Boccadoro’s Bad Blood, a work described in the program notes as a sort of jeremiad against an imagined version of the Tuskegee experiments in the US.

All of this was a precursor to the main course, Earl Kim’s Exercises En Route, a 30 minute work for soprano and small ensemble that was perhaps the most direct reference to Schoenberg. The piece sets four texts from Samuel Beckett and captures the enthralling monotony of his language beautifully. The soloist was soprano Susan Narucki who attacked the half-sung, half-spoken passages with glee, fully exploiting Beckett’s text for it wonderful wealth of wordplay.

Do you need another reason to love the Monday Evening Concert Series? How about this – they have made much of the last performance available on You Tube. I’m not much for video in blog posts, but I had to include the three 5 or 6 minute segments that make up one of the big highlights of December’s show (which I didn’t write about due to time constraints) – a performance of Horatiu Radulescu’s Das Andere by violist Vincent Royer. Royer has made Radulescu’s works a specialty and I thought his version of this highly deconstructed sonata was amazing. Make sure to catch the last two MEC shows this season including the March 10th program looking at Harrison Birtwistle and the April 14th program entirely devoted to the work of Helmut Lachenmann who will be in LA for the event.

Das Andere Part I

and Part II

and Part III


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