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Festival At Cal-arts Takes A Different Tack : Concert For 6 Pianos

March 10, 1987|CHRIS PASLES

What's a new music festival without at least one glitch? Sunday at the CalArts Festival, a concert originally announced to start at 3 p.m. began at 2.

For benefit of latecomers (or early birds, depending on your point of view), two of the five works were repeated at the end of the program and the entire concert was given again at 5:45 p.m.

The program, "Six Pianos in Search of a Player," proved a catchall collection of works that shared only similar technical resources: four electric pianos arranged in a square on the Main Gallery floor and two more on the second level--all computer controlled. It was quadraphonic-plus.

Peter Otto's "Delicate Switches" most pointedly explored the spatial possibilities of this arrangement, lightly testing each keyboard as a locus, then bridging space through rolling arpeggios. Michael Jon Fink's "L'Age d'Or" deftly sustained watery, impressionistic chords a la Ravel's "Ondine."

Barry Schrader enjoyably recycled mellifluous Romantic styles in "Extreme Variations on a Theme and Variations by Mel Powell for Six Clavinovas," whereas Phillip Brazer essayed sparse, open, atonal procedures in "Three Ideas."

Best of all, Rand Steiger parodied the whole extravaganza, suggesting parallels between this newfangled employment of six keyboards and the hoary whiz-bang mammoth piano concerts of days gone by through witty, exaggerated virtuoso gestures in "Tributaries for Nancarrow."

At a 4 p.m. program, oboist Han de Vries provided almost a mini-festival of his own, robustly and securely responding to the eclectic demands of seven composers ranging from Berio to Xenakis.

Highlights would have to include De Vries' electric attacks, ghostly tremolos and delicately shaded phrasings in Berio's "Sequenza VII" and his tracing sinuous melodic lines or sustaining multiphonics above dance rhythms ably provided by percussionists Arthur Jarvinen and Bob Fernandez in Xenakis' "Dmaathen".

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