A streak of melancholy--perfectly Russian and perfectly appropriate to one born in Kiev--has long marked the music of Michel Michelet. It is present, the composer acknowledges, in his film scores--Michelet has written, since the 1930s, more than 105 such scores--as well as in his more recent chamber-music output.
Grief, however, is a new emotion in the 85-year old composer's works. But it is the main component in the Requiem Michelet wrote in 1982 and which he dedicated to the memory of his wife, Edith, who had died the preceding year.
Now the work will receive its world premiere performance, as mounted by the American Youth Symphony and its founder-conductor, Mehli Mehta. That premiere takes place tonight at 8 in Royce Hall at UCLA. Assisting will be soloists Mary Rawcliffe and James Harris White and the 150-voice UCLA Chorus.
Like Brahms before him, Michelet says he tried to make the traditional Requiem accessible to his audience. He does this by utilizing texts in English by his friend, Albert Smith. The source of the words for the final (sixth) movement, for instance, are a letter Smith wrote Michelet upon the death of the composer's wife.
"The words were so beautiful, I used the entire letter in the finale," Michelet says.
As has been noted, most recently when Mstislav Rostropovich played Michelet's "Concerto in Sonata Form," No. 2, here, the Russian-born composer has cultivated a tonal style of polished rhetoric, sentiment and popular appeal. That style, the composer says, exists in all his works, from the "many dozens of songs, in Russian, French and Italian," he has written over the decades, to his chamber music of the past decade.
Indeed, as he demonstrated in playing a tape of the Piano Quintet (1984), Michelet's gift for melody seems to be as alert, active and articulate as the composer himself.
Completing Mehli Mehta's AYS program tonight--the Requiem occupies only 40 minutes--will be Joseph Jongen's Symphonie Concertante, with UCLA faculty organist Thomas Harmon as soloist.
IN DANCE: After a brief hiatus, Southland dance activity seems to renew itself this week. At the refurbished Wiltern Theatre at Wilshire and Western, the UCLA Center for the Performing Arts presents the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater seven times this week. The engagement begins Wednesday night at 8 and ends next Sunday night. Works new to Los Angeles are: "Anjour" (Beckles/Jarrett), "Divining" (Jamison/Ellison, Dinizulu), "Collage" (McKayle/Subramaniam) and "For 'Bird,' With Love" (Ailey/Parker, Basie, Gillespie).
Meanwhile, back at Royce Hall, UCLA also presents the Bella Lewitzky Dance Co. in two performances of a new program of Lewitzky works: "8 Dancers/8 Lights" (music by Donald Knaack); "Suite Satie," and "Nos Durati" (Stravinsky's "Symphony of Psalms"). Performances are Friday and Saturday nights at 8.
AT THE PHILHARMONIC: Closing its music-directorless Music Center season, the Los Angeles Philharmonic this week plays two performances of Ruggles-Brahms-Copland led by guest conductor Erich Leinsdorf. Making her West Coast at these concerts, Thursday night at 8:30 and Friday afternoon at 1:30 in the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, is German violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter, at 21 a veteran of numerous musical skirmishes, having been discovered by Herbert von Karajan when she was just 13. Mutter will play Brahms' Violin Concerto. Surrounding that work, Leinsdorf has placed Carl Ruggles' "Angels," for brass, and Copland's Symphony No. 3.
Though its Music Center concerts end with the Friday matinee, members of the Philharmonic have a month's work before they go on vacation. During that month, the orchestra will give a series of in-school concerts, plus a series of four events at UCLA. Details will be forthcoming.
DANCING FOR AFRICA: To open New York City Ballet's season at the State Theater last week, Peter Martins and Suzanne Farrell were joined by a corps of dance students in Martin's classical/disco treatment of "We Are the World," the all-star rock anthem benefiting victims of the African famine. The dancers wore shorts and "U.S.A. For Africa" sweat shirts.