There has been much discussion lately of a chamber music boom. New ensembles, new series and/or newly commissioned works seem to appear almost weekly, with a large portion of the activity centered in the Southwest.
Acknowledging this trend, Chamber Music America will hold its annual conference in Los Angeles from Jan. 17-20 at the New Otani Hotel. This will be the first time the 10-year-old organization has met in conference outside New York.
Chamber Music America is a nonprofit service-support group that lists more than 500 member ensembles and more than 200 chamber music sponsors. It provides grants to performers for ensemble residencies (the California E.A.R. Unit's four concerts at the County Museum of Art this season are supported in part through this program) and for commissioning compositions (the E.A.R. Unit and the Los Angeles Piano Quartet are among the seven recipients for the 1987-'88 season).
The conference agenda includes numerous workshops and lecture/presentations about the nuts-and-bolts of the chamber music business: fund raising, audience building and stress management for ensembles exposed to the grueling demands of extended touring. Los Angeles Philharmonic music director Andre Previn--who will appear as a pianist in four of the five remaining concerts of the Philharmonic Chamber Music Society--will deliver the keynote address.
CMA has also surveyed its members in an effort to determine what constitutes the standard chamber music repertory and how that has changed recently. Twenty-eight presenters, representing series of all sizes across the country, responded to the survey.
The results, though hardly definitive, both confirm and startle settled opinion. On the respondents' programs during the last 20 years, the Classical gang of four--Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven and Schubert--accounted for more than a third of all works performed. Baroque music has dwindled as a percentage of the programming, while contemporary music has consistently held about 20% of the scheduled repertory.
Among individual works, Ravel's String Quartet tops the chart of 21 most often performed works. Beethoven places six works among the group, but classics from this century have also clearly emerged. Bartok's Fourth and Sixth quartets, Berg's "Lyric Suite" and Shostakovich's Eighth Quartet all made the list.
The steady representation of contemporary music--a category in the CMA survey that does not include early 20th-Century masters such as Bartok, Prokofiev and Ives, but does include Stravinsky -- is heartening, especially since the survey does not seem to have polled series such as Monday Evening Concerts or the Kronos Quartet's concerts.
CMA and the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) are recognizing and encouraging the performance of contemporary music with a new group of awards for adventuresome programming. The first of these annual awards, to be given in four categories to ensembles and presenters, will be made at the January conference.
NEW YEAR BEGINNINGS: The celebratory fifth-anniversary season at Japan America Theatre lists a number of premieres and debuts. The season begins Feb. 2 with the U.S. premiere of "Utamaro: The Musical," reportedly the first Japanese Broadway-style musical to tour this country, with five more performances following. The show includes English narration and supertitles with the songs.
The Los Angeles Chamber Ballet offers three premieres Feb. 26 and 27, featuring "Orpheus--A Ballet Opera," which combines the work of choreographer Raiford Rogers, composer Lloyd Rodgers and artist Mark Stock.
On March 5, Contemporary Dance of Japan makes its U.S. debut. The following week, Pro Musica Nipponia and Detroit-based New American Chamber Orchestra present a program of premieres, including the world premiere of a work by Takashi Yoshimatsu. March 26, the Mary Jane Eisenberg Dance Company offers two premieres plus "Group Portrait: The Satoh Piece."
Nagoya Odori returns to the theater April 10, with a new program of Japanese classical dance, accompanied by a 15-member nagauta ensemble.
ISO Dance Theatre dances twice, June 3 and 4. Comprised of four Momix alums, the group brings a new program from Tokyo.
Two theater productions complete the season: the West Coast premiere of "The Water Station" by director/playwright Shogo Ohta June 25 and 26, and six performances by the Grand Kabuki beginning July 6.
"Early Music at Castle Green" opens Jan. 10, with soprano Judith Nelson joining the Los Angeles Baroque Players. As the 10th season of the Harpsichord Center's "Artist Series," the Sunday matinee concerts will be given in the grand ballroom of the Pasadena landmark and followed by a catered buffet.
The ensemble will also accompany flutist Anne Briggs on April 17. Harpsichordists Richard Rephann and Louis Bagger appear Feb. 14 and May 22, respectively. Fortepianist Karen Swietlik completes the series with a Mozart-Haydn-Beethoven program March 27.
CELLISTS AND MORE CELLISTS: Earlier this month, 32 Japanese cellists performed in a gala concert opening the new 500-seat Pablo Casals Concert Hall in Tokyo. The auditorium was inaugurated with a 19-concert festival this month featuring performances by pianist Mieczyslaw Horszowski--at 95 making his first trip to Japan--the Guarneri String Quartet, and violinist Jaime Laredo with his wife, cellist Sharon Robinson. Marta Casals Istomin, widow of the cellist and artistic director of the Kennedy Center, attended.
UCLA CHANGES: The Center for the Performing Arts has announced that Twyla Tharp Dance will fill the dates in the dance series left vacant when Ballet Rambert canceled its scheduled appearances earlier this year. Tharp's company will dance April 21-23 at Royce Hall.
The collaboration by the Kronos Quartet and ISO Dance Theatre planned for the following week, April 28-30, has been canceled due to budgetary conflicts.