Out West Arts: Performance at the end of the world

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

Busy Work

March 10, 2010

Peter Eötvös, Gregory Vajda, and members of the Los Angeles Philharmonic
Photo: mine 2010

Tuesday’s “Green Umbrella” program sponsored by the Los Angeles Philharmonic seemed neglected in a way. The L.A. Philharmonic’s "Creative Chair" for new music, John Adams wasn’t there, and the Philharmonic’s Associate Conductor scheduled for the program, Lionel Bringuier, was absent following an injury. Whether or not either of these facts contributed to the lower than normal turn out for one of the contemporary music programs at the WDCH isn’t clear. But outside of the talented Philharmonic members that played in the program, the evening seemed rather untethered from the place and organization as a whole. Nevertheless, it was still a fine evening, featuring primarily the music of Hungarian composer Peter Eötvös. A well-known figure in Europe, Eötvös has been featured on local stages in the past including a big role in the 2007 Ojai Festival, and his return was welcome.

There were three of his works on the schedule, all of which were led by Eötvös' fellow countryman Gregory Vajda, with the exception of a string quartet. Setting the tone was Snatches of a Conversation which, as the name implies, involved a half-whispered vocal part consisting of phrases one might overhear in a crowded restaurant or party. The percolating music had a heavy jazz influence including a major part for a double-bell trumpet played by Brandon Ridenour referencing the snatches of jazz the composer remembered hearing over illegal radio channels in his youth in communist Hungary. This musical scatter of notes was reflected in two other works, Sonta per sei and Korrespondenz, a string quartet. The six players in the Sonata were two pianos, a sampler, and three percussionists. It too achieved a certain stillness or meta-narrative apart from the jingling passages in both sets of instruments. Korrespondenz was played by the Calder Quartet and was intended to mimic actual letters written between Mozart and his father when the young composer was living in Paris. The words from the letters are printed in the score and different sets of notes are matched with different letters and sounds in the words. The conversation takes place between the viola and first violin on the young man's side and the cello and second violin standing in for the father. All of the works seemed to create something much larger apart from their methodologies and intricate and busy activity.

The other piece on the program belonged to a student of Eötvös', Vykintas Baltakas, entitled (co)ro(na). Baltakas composed this piece as part of a series of works built up from small musical elements of one another and expanded into much larger proportions. (co)ro(na) alternates sequences of jittery percolating notes across the ensemble with longer held notes placed for sharpest contrast. It felt cut from a similar cloth as the other works in the program and captured the same sense of stillness in the context of motion. All of the music was fascinating to listen to and rather exciting overall. And, while apparently being a major European conductor and composer doesn't pull the weight around L.A. that it used to, it's programs like these that continue to be the highlight of the L.A. Philharmonic season.


This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?



Opera Reviews '10-'11

Opera Reviews '09-'10

Opera Reviews '06-'09

L.A. Phil Reviews '09/'10

L.A. Phil Reviews '08/'09

L.A. Theater Reviews


Follow Along


Los Angeles

Follow me on Twitter