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MUSIC REVIEWS : Innovation Is Byword for Chamber Series Opener


COSTA MESA — As composer Stephen Lucky Mosko pointed out before Saturday's concert, promoters' unwillingness to hazard the financial risk of programming and publishers' reluctance to print contemporary output has left audiences woefully unprepared to hear music of their own era.

He was obviously not talking about the Southwest Chamber Music Society's concert that evening at the Orange County Performing Arts Center, in which chamber members continued their long-established quest to broaden listeners' musical vocabularies and to enlarge restricted concert repertory from all periods.

On this occasion, for the opening of the fifth Chamber Music Series in Founders Hall, Artistic Director Jeff von der Schmidt seemed to have chosen pieces infused with a spirituality particular to each of the chosen composers--Mosko, Messiaen and the intensely devout Austrian Catholic, Bruckner.


Among the selections was the premiere of Mosko's "Psychotropics." But when prodded to describe his artistic intent, Mosko refused to intrude upon a musical experience that might differ for everyone. Instead, he offered an otherworldly concept of a sound environment that one walks through, each reacting in different ways. He also noted intentional pairings based on relationships among the players for which it was written--violist Jan Karlin and her husband, hornist Schmidt as well as between Stuart Horn on oboe and English horn, and his longtime friend, the composer's wife, Dorothy Stone on flute, bass flute and piccolo.

The work offered constantly changing sonic colors and effects, exploiting both traditional and unusual sounds on the quintet's eight possible instruments, including Vicki Ray's piano. Mosko emphasized the darker side of his palette, over a wash of ever-shifting meters that required him to conduct the quartet and that also left an uncomfortable impression of a technical exercise.

Two compositions by the French mystic Messiaen received authoritative readings, with Stone attentively shaping the angular and ominous blackbird of "Le Merle Noir" and Ray excelling in deliberate soliloquy against a monolithic string quartet--formed by violinists Peter Marsh and Susan Jensen, Karlin and cellist Roger Lebow--for the late "Piece."

Bruckner's Quintet in F, long absent from standard fare, found eloquent champions here. Adding violist Richard Elegino to the above quartet, the ensemble brought insistent passion and compelling depth to its reading, particularly in the lush, mournful cantilena of the Andante.

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