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MUSIC REVIEW : Krenek's 'In Twelve Stations' Given U.S. Premiere in Pasadena

February 18, 1988|JOHN HENKEN

Ernst Krenek's most recent work, Opus 237 for the 87-year-old composer, received its U.S. premiere Tuesday evening. His String Trio, "In Twelve Stations," was the centerpiece of an intriguing program, courtesy of the Southwest Chamber Music Society, in the acoustically and visually attractive Wright Auditorium at the Pasadena Library.

Krenek began the work at 12 different points, hence the title. As might be expected, it is an episodic effort but not waywardly so, running its varied course in 19 compelling minutes.

The trio is staunchly atonal, though only intermittently serial. It is also a remarkably attractive piece, warm and sassy in a timbral coat of many colors.

Violinist Kimiyo Takeya, violist Jan Karlin and cellist Erika Duke--a.k.a. the California Trio--treated it with obvious affection. They were willing to go to occasionally uncontrolled extremes in service of Krenek's expressive, highly spiced scoring. They proved alert and responsive to each other and the music in most matters of phrasing and articulation.

Their efforts, though, were continually compromised by misintonation and lightweight sound, which seemed to originate with Takeya and work its way down. Mozart's paradoxically imposing Divertimento, K. 563, for example, has certainly had suaver readings.

The evening began on notes of novelty, with two Preludes and Fugues by Mozart, from K. 404a. The preludes are Mozart's own, but he transcribed the fugues from Bach's "Wohltemperierte Clavier," in a stylistically bent homage of quirky, but very real, charm and pathos.

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