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MUSIC REVIEW : Monday Concerts Open

October 12, 1994

A rousing performance by the Schoenberg Quartet from the Netherlands launched another season, another round of contemporary musical provocations courtesy of Monday Evening Concerts.

This season began with a profound bang at L.A. County Museum of Art's Bing Theater. This was an evening of powerful, uncompromising music played with conviction and the kind of clarity that lays bare the soul beneath the notes.

True to the ensemble's name, the Schoenberg Quartet originated with a focus on the serialism of the Second Viennese School. Yet this program circled around the doctrines of that infamous school, even closing with the L.A. premiere of Louis Andriessen's "Facing Death," which takes its cues, broadly, from be-bop.

Rest assured, seminal modernists were represented here, if outside of 12-tone form. Anton Webern's dryly plaintive 1905 String Quartet represents a stop on the road to his liberation from tonality. Opening the concert was the underrated Alexander Zemlinsky's 1924 String Quartet.

The closest thing to a strictly atonal scheme came in Klaas de Vries' 1993 String Quartet, the most satisfying work on the program. A kind of atonal impressionism is at work here, amid the compelling maze of ethereal textures, phantom tones and prickly, nervous outbursts.

A jaunt to the finish, Andriessen's virtuosic piece is a deft and darkly cheeky working of the unlikely median between row music and jazz riffs, a frenzied compendium of be-bop phrases, including quotes from Charlie Parker's "Ornithology."

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