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MUSIC REVIEWS : New Chamber Music From CalArts Players

April 26, 1993|TIMOTHY MANGAN

As part of the Spring Music Festival, the CalArts New Century Players (and guests) presented an earful of new and newish chamber music Saturday night in the Modular Theater on campus, saving the best for last.

That came in the form of a (relatively) old friend, George Crumb's 1971 "Lux Aeterna," for soprano, bass flute, sitar, two percussionists and, on this occasion, a dancer. The CalArts Players did it up right, complete with black robes and Oriental headgear, a single candle center-stage around which sat, cross-legged on the floor, sitarist and flutist.

During the "Masked Dance" refrain, bare-chested Tomas Tamayo slithered and fluttered around the candle in complete antithesis to the prevailing musical trance around him, a moth drawn to flame.

Morton Subotnick's "Axolotl" for cello (an impeccable Hugh Livingston) and electronic ghost box also impressed and entertained. Despite its technical gadgetry--the cellist's music is manipulated by computer-chip technology, its sound shadowed and thrown about the room, distorted, wiggled, turned into separate beats--it is the simplicity of this score that satisfies.

David Maslanka's "Orpheus" for the inspired grouping of two bassoons and marimba fascinated timbrally, though its Stravinskian lyricism proved more interesting than the sweet, minimalistic tune that eventually took over.

The New Century Players performed throughout with their wonted skill and poise; one heard the music and didn't worry about the very real difficulties of executing it.

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