Dutiful, earnest and tightly knit, the performances given by the California E.A.R. Unit at the latest Monday Evening Concert had to elicit admiration and a certain sleepiness.
These performances noted the anniversaries this year of Elliott Carter--his 80th birthday, on Sunday--and Karlheinz Stockhausen--his 60th, in June. They offered strong advocacy of three Carter pieces--"Canon for 4" (1984), "Enchanted Preludes" (1988) and the Triple Duo (1982)--and Stockhausen's 20-year-old "Stimmung." But they failed to excite.
"Stimmung," by now a specialty of the E.A.R. Unit, seems to have been polished to a fault.
In Bing Theater at the County Museum of Art Monday night, six singing members of the nine-musician ensemble--Lorna Eder, Erika Duke, Dorothy Stone, Gaylord Mowrey, James Rohrig and Arthur Jarvinen--moved efficiently through the intricacies of the extended piece in merely 65 minutes, a short span, given the complexity of the materials. A red-lit stage and an attentive, involved audience added a helpful ambiance.
The sense projected in this performance, however, though neatly clarified, lacked the compelling, urgent quality one seems to remember from earlier incarnations. What used to emerge as titillating, amusing or novel appears to have solidified into ritual; what seemed clever two decades ago starts to become sophomoric.
In the Carter half of this program, the novelty was the West Coast premiere of the "Enchanted Preludes" for flute and cello. It is a pleasant piece of less than five minutes' duration that forges its uneventful way amiably through crafty musical thickets. Dorothy Stone and Erika Duke produced an apprehensible and unstrained reading.
In the brief, four-player "Canon" and the full-length, brilliantly scored Triple Duo, the latter conducted authoritatively by Rand Steiger, the players' long association with the composer's style resulted in comparably solid, if not always incisive, performances.