LA JOLLA — Noting, three months late, the 85th birthday of Ernst Krenek, and its own 20th anniversary, the UC San Diego department of music mounted a three-day celebration over the weekend of the composer who has been called its "spiritual godfather."
Krenek himself, looking fit and tan, attended the eight-event series, accepting a steady stream of tributes and ovations with a modest, gracious wave of the hand. He had to be pleased.
Centerpiece of the celebration, Saturday night, was a musical Festschrift--the presentation to the honoree of brief pieces written by colleagues and former students for the occasion. In all, 20 such pieces were performed; after the event, Krenek was presented the manuscripts. Later, they will reside in the UCSD Krenek Archive.
In this survey, the extent of Krenek's influence on other writers of music and the range of expressions that influence has engendered seem broad indeed. In the series of miniatures--pieces between two and four minutes in length, as prescribed by the UCSD celebration committee masterminded by Krenek biographer John Stewart--the full gamut of 20th-Century musical styles is indicated.
The composers represented, in order of performance, were Sergio Cervetti, Tom Benjamin, Theodore Antoniou, Grant Fletcher, Aurelio de la Vega, Christopher Kuzell, William Bland, Richard Swift, Dennis Kam, Jerome Rosen, Beverly Grigsby, Mildred Kayden, Peter Odegard, Roque Cordero, George Perle, David Burge, Garrett Bowles, Joji Yuasa, Marc-Antonio Consoli and Glenn Glasow.
Their pieces, for soloists, duos, trios and ensembles up to nine players strong, were realized Saturday night by a 24-member consortium of UCSD faculty, students and friends.
Varieties of tonal and atonal thought were here reiterated, often with the support of words or poetry; Krenek's lifelong preoccupation with language is a legacy few of his students have failed to accept.
Kayden's clever self-advertisement, "L'Hommage and Collage for Ernst Krenek," for flute, piano, soprano and tape, proved slickest in evoking this legacy. But the bright contributions of Antoniou, Odegard and, especially, Burge, also succeeded in showcasing pertinent texts resonantly.
Grigsby's "Occam's Razor," for "computer-generated orchestra," made the biggest sound and the biggest-boned statement among this otherwise small-scaled company, while De la Vega's "Adramante," for soprano and piano, created prettiness and color through dramatic usage.
Prominent among the two dozen performers were sopranos Ann Chase and Beverly Ogdon, violinists Linda Cummisky and Marie Peak, bassist Bertram Turetzky and pianists Stefani Walens and Loie Wheeler.
Thomas Nee, a student of Krenek's in the years the composer taught at Hamline University in Minnesota, was the expert conductor.