The Falla Guitar Trio returned to its recorded roots, Friday night at Caltech's Beckman Auditorium. The typically eclectic, buoyantly played program leaned heavily on the ensemble's first two recordings.
Revisiting facile little works such as William Boyce's First Symphony is not a high-profit enterprise, however, and the arrangement-laden agenda suggested an advanced case of repertory deprivation. Innocuous entertainment can carry a concert only so far.
Fortunately, the evening also boasted trio-member Dusan Bogdanovic's "Crow," in a concert version of the piece originally composed for the Pacific Dance Company. An obsessive, often dark song cycle on texts by Ted Hughes, "Crow" provided a welcome ballast of forceful imagery and sonic bite.
Tenor Nmon Ford-Livene sang with sensitive clarity and nicely focused tone, alert to the implications of text and the bluesy twists of Bogdanovic's lines. The three guitarists--often Bogdanovic alone, with Terry Graves on a bass-strung instrument and Kenton Youngstrom on a vintage Gibson--delivered pungent accounts of the iterative, post-minimal music.
Elsewhere, the always lithe and pointed playing suffered from a surfeit of refinement, and overly optimistic ideas about the Beckman acoustic. This proved particularly true in Youngstrom's elegant arrangement of Barber's "Excursions," much of which was presented in shy understatement at the threshold of audibility.