Advertisement
YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

Music Review

At CSUN, Illuminating Survey of De la Vega's Piano Pieces

April 24, 2001|JOSEF WOODARD | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

How does one best survey a half-century in the life of a composer like Cuban-born Aurelio de la Vega? Sunday afternoon at CSUN's Recital Hall, the answer came in a focused theme, his Complete Piano Works. For the occasion, sponsored by the Cuban American Cultural Institute and also honoring the composer's 75th birthday, Martha Marchena ventured boldly and insightfully through the composer's piano oeuvre.

The program offered an illuminating if selective summary of the composer's eclectic vision. De la Vega enjoys an international reputation, and wears his Cuban heritage in subtle ways through his music. Northridge has been a home base for him, having spent 34 years teaching at CSUN, retiring in 1991.

The program--which will be recorded and performed on tour, showcases the composer's evolving voice, from the disarming neo-Impressionism of his Three Preludes, of 1944, to one of his best-known works, the "Homenagem (In Memoriam Heitor Villa-Lobos)," from 1987. Played with requisite flair and objective cool by Marchena, the latter piece is a marvel, its dance-like rhythmic energy surging beneath an arid, atonal thicket. Artful paradox is the upshot.

Lyricism and melodic instincts are often embedded in de la Vega's music, as in the headily reflective "Epigrama." The "Danza Lenta" (1956) is almost blithely tuneful, but its melody is swaddled in chromatic harmonies that keep easy resolution at bay. His most willfully abstract piano piece, 1967's "Antinomies," requires the performer to bang fists on the keys, mallets on the strings, and, in a delightful dadaist moment, knock on the score itself.

Political resonance sneaked into the musical picture only obliquely. The formidable Toccata was written in Cuba in 1957, just before the Communist regime's onset, and was premiered in Northridge by Peter Hewitt in 1960. The work's complex fury of notes, unleashed with flourish by Marchena, could suggest the rage of an artist propelled away from his homeland. By contrast, the Minuet, also written in '57 and also premiered in Northridge by Hewitt, might represent a giddy sense of liberation. A playful gem from the parlor, its sweet melodic line goes cross-eyed with minor seconds.

Advertisement
Los Angeles Times Articles
|
|
|