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MUSIC REVIEWS : Cancellation Haunts Umbrella Concert

April 28, 1993|LAURENCE VITTES

A promised, then abruptly canceled premiere from American Charles Dodge haunted the Los Angeles Philharmonic New Music Group's Green Umbrella concert, otherwise dominated by mainstream European composers Monday night.

Notable was the absence of the scheduled world premiere of Dodge's "The One and the Other," a piece that might have increased the variety of the program. According to an unusually candid press handout, when Esa-Pekka Salonen "began to study the score last week, he found that the style of the work differed fundamentally from the contemporary music he has been used to performing."

The Philharmonic promises to play the work next season, "conducted by someone who is more in sympathy with Mr. Dodge's music."

Salonen opened with Webern's Five Pieces for Orchestra Opus 10, accompanied by the Japan America Theatre's loud air conditioner. So he played it again to open the second half, this time so perfectly audible and beautifully in tune that the music's 12-tone mechanism glowed like a jewel.

After the air was turned off, the first half continued with the U.S. premiere of Salonen's oboe sonata "Second Meeting" (1992) and the West Coast premiere of Roger Reynolds' octet "Dionysus" (1990), the lone surviving American representative on the agenda.

Salonen's work, being yet another example of his ability to compellingly explore instrumental resonance, allowed Carolyn Hove, who brilliantly captured the music's Gallic instability and brittle Finnish insouciance, and Gloria Cheng, who made the mainly melodic piano part sound rich and colorful, to hold the audience tightly in their sway.

Reynolds' insistently energetic "Dionysus," however, suffered from Salonen's rigidly humorless conducting, although trumpeter Boyde Hoode played some extraordinary circus-music licks.

After the second playing of the Webern, the easy authority of Pierre Boulez's "Derive I" may have showed that attractive fabric can be made from difficult materials. But it quickly paled once trumpeter Thomas Stevens, for whom the piece was written, began filling the air with the fantastic fanfares and soliloquies of Luciano Berio's "Sequenza X."

The concert ended with Franco Donatoni's entertaining "Refrain," 10 minutes of dopey hip-hop riffs which, from the cool opening bass pizzicati to the closing musical laughter, is an endearing, crowd-pleasing slice of modern music.

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