Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Lutoslawski, Stucky, Salonen: Partita, Chantefleurs et Chantefables, Ad Parnassum, Homunculus; A Review by Payman Akhlaghi of Concert at Disney Hall, December 4th, 2012, Green Umbrella Series

Witold Lutoslawski
Polish Composer,
Conductor & Pianist
Witold Lutoslawski:
Partita, for Violin & Piano
Chantefleurs et Chantefables
Steven Stucky:
Ad Parnassum (1998)

Esa-Pekka Salonen:
Homunculus, for String Quartet (2007)

A Green Umbrella Concert at Disney Hall
December 4th, 2012

A Review by Payman Akhlaghi

LA Philharmonic's Green Umbrella Series are dedicated to the more serious if under-performed virtuosic contemporary music with typically smaller performance forces, and more dedicated audiences.

Last evening's program, Tuesday December the 4th, 2012, my first to attend in years, belonged to two chamber works by Lutoslawski, and two pieces by two of his champions, Steven Stucky and Esa-Pekka Salonen. I missed part of the first piece, Lutoslawski's Partita for Violin and Piano, a captivating sonic event, even as it permeated the lobby of Disney Hall via monitors. [1] The piece was later adapted fro violin and orchestra by the composer. [2]

Mr. Stucky's Ad Parnassum (1998) reminded me consistently of his earlier music, until it was confirmed from the program notes that this was in fact the same piece that I had heard him conduct back in 1999, at Japan American Theater, after a lecture presentation at UCLA: so much for this author's memory! [3] Given its pointillistic texture, based on a "polyphonic painting" of the same name by Paul Klee [4], the work demands of its small ensemble a maximum of focus and dynamic control to maintain tension and structural cohesion, a seemingly effortless task for master conductor Lionel Bringuier and his excellent performers.

Mr. Salonen's Homunculus (2007) is an exciting 15-min movement for string quartet, utilizing a more or less tonal, or rather post-modern modal language, and clear-cut pulsated rhythms, to achieve maximal aural engagement. (The composer emphasizes the accessible side of the piece by referring to a "C Major chord" at a climactic point.) From the opening hook to the final cadence, through a path of well-contrasted episodes, it would hardly let you go off of its grip.

The concert culminated in Lutoslawski's gem of a a song cycle, Chantefleurs et Chantefables, [5] sung by Ms. Laura Claycomb. Each of the 10 short numbers inhabits an original timbral and textural world of its own, standing in refreshing contrast to that of the other movements. Even without a knowledge of French, the music alone sufficed to provide this listener with much awe and delight.

(*) I admire Lutoslawski's work with much affection. Not only did I write a graduate paper on his Symphony No. 4, but I was deeply honored when my work for string quartet, Mirage of an Echo, was recognized by the competition bearing his name.

(*) First published on Facebook/PAComposer, December 5th, 2012.
© 2012, Payman Akhlaghi. All rights reserved.

[1] A partial performance of Lutoslawski' Partita for Violin & Piano.
[2] Lutoslawski's Partita for Violin & Orchestra: Mvts. I-IIIMvts. IV-V.
[3] An LA Times Review of a concert conducted by S. Stucky's, featuring Ad Parnassum, November 1999.
[4] Paul Klee's 1932 painting, Ad Parnassum:
[5] Lutoslawski's Chantefleurs et Chantefables, Part 1 of 2Part 2 of 2.

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