Winding up its three-day festival at Cal State Northridge on Sunday, the International Congress on Women in Music featured no fewer than eight composers in a concert at the Campus Theatre. Under any circumstances, the listener would have difficulty sorting out the individualities of each work; Sunday, the task seemed well-nigh impossible.
In the first place, only two of the compositions, at best, could claim particular distinction. Nearly all were competently written, accessible works, but notably lacking in originality. Second, the preponderance of meandering, insipid adagios gave this listener a feeling of ennui. There were successes. Tera de Marez Oyens' skillfully scored "Modus I" for small orchestra, though slow and elegiac, had a fine sense of flow and a logical, concise structure. Hagar Kadima's "Clusters" for piano, percussion and strings develops a limited vocabulary of motivic units gradually, and the piece unwinds at a slow, measured pace. Exhibiting no dramatic mood changes, it nonetheless proved rich in variety.
Lucie Velere's quasi-tonal "Epitaphe pour un ami" emerged agreeable but bland. Susan Fisher's "Five Preludes" began promisingly, with colorful scoring and an Oriental flavor, but its rhapsodic dreaminess gave way to repetitive dreariness. Maggie Burston's prolix and vapid "Haiku" was dreary throughout (kudos, though, to sight-reading soprano Deborah Kavasch, a last-minute vocal replacement). Lily Hood Gunn led the Los Angeles Modern String Orchestra in serviceable readings of the above.
Earlier, flutist Gretel Shanley and some of her students did yeoman's duty for three forgettable works.