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MUSIC REVIEW : 'New' CalArts Ensemble in Eclectic Program

November 25, 1987|DANIEL CARIAGA | Times Music Writer

Functional and entertaining, Paul Lansky's recent "Values of Time," which received its West Coast premiere performance at the second "Green Umbrella" event of the season Monday night, turned out to be the only novelty on a pleasant, virtually chronological program.

As played and broadcast--the 1986 work, introduced at Aspen this past summer, is scored for eight instruments and tape--in Japan America Theatre by members of the CalArts New Twentieth-Century Players, "Values" sounds like elegant Gebrauchsmusik . That is, music for use.

It might accompany a film, or serve as background at a social event--its sounds are pretty, and accessible, faintly familiar, not to say cliched.

It begins in C, and states its case in unmistakable tonal terms before moving farther afield. To those who may remember American radio dramas of the 1940s, its sound will recall those mini-symphonic ensembles that provided live accompaniment for such programs. The prerecorded tape part does not contradict that impression; it contributes spice and decoration.

In a confident performance conducted by Ruben Gurevich, "Values of Time" seemed to please the respectably small audience gathered in the Little Tokyo auditorium; the Princeton-based composer, soon to complete a guest semester at CalArts, was present.

Gurevich and his 22 colleagues--12 of them members of the CalArts faculty--achieved similar results in the preceding four works on this agenda: Luciano Berio's "Serenata" (1957) for flute and 14 instruments; Stefan Wolpe's Piece (1971) for solo trumpet and 7 instruments; Gyorgy Ligeti's Chamber Concerto (1969) for 13 instruments, and the late Morton Feldman's "Piano" (1977).

Three expert principals of the ensemble added luster to these polished performances. Rachel Rudich served as flute soloist in Berio's complicated and earnest "Serenata." Bryan Pezzone brought musical and pianistic skills of great depth to the subtle and evocative rhetoric of Feldman's "Piano," for solo pianist. And Mario Guarneri presided resourcefully and good-humoredly over the exposed upper lines of Wolpe's short and jolly Piece.

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