Chamber Music/LA, a recent, ad hoc offshoot of the Sitka Festival, made its first winter appearance on Sunday afternoon at the Japan America Theatre. The program was dedicated to the late cellist Gabor Rejto, and a more glorious memorial would be hard to imagine.
The central item on the compact agenda was the world premiere of Henri Lazarof's Octet for Strings, "La Laurenziana." It is a major work in every respect, three dramatic, clearly shaped movements running almost 20 minutes.
The emphasis is on texture and sonority, generated through motivic developments rather than pure sound masses. The part-writing ranges from fiercely independent frenzy to bold, intense unisons, in an angular, freely dissonant idiom that proves also amenable to moments of affecting, almost neo-modal tenderness.
The subtitle refers to the Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana in Florence, which inspired the work. There is nothing programmatic in the music, the composer avows, but there is a sense of nostalgic yearning to it, as well as majesty and great seriousness.