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Music Review

Lesemann's Versatility on Display

April 18, 2002|JOSEF WOODARD | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Opportunities to hear single-composer concerts, portraits of an artist rather than just a glimpse, are all too rare. They do occur, however, in academia, as when USC student and faculty musicians performed works by accomplished composer Frederick Lesemann on Tuesday at the Newman Recital Hall on campus.

In program notes, Lesemann called the concert less a definitive "retrospective" than a loose selection of pieces spanning the '50s through last year, befitting its title "Chamber Music From Six Decades." The music did touch on the arc of his development through style and history, suggesting that he's a composer of generous range, resistant to the strictures of "isms."

That was a clear message in Five Fugues for String Quartet--smartly played by the Calder String Quartet--a 1985 piece with fugal passages that ironically allude to the repetitive lines of Minimalism.

One impression left was that Lesemann--a faculty member for nearly 40 years--has a winning way with brass, from the requiem-ish contours of "Caoine (Music for Brass)" to the artful blare of "Lux Lituorum," for eight trumpets producing a big, bright yet lush sound.

"Variations" (1957) for solo piano gestured toward 12-tone pioneer--and iconic USC faculty member--Arnold Schoenberg. Played beautifully by Susan Svrcek, the work wields its atonal language gracefully with an almost Satie-ish feeling and economy.

This program's highlight was last year's Concertino for Oboe and 6 Instruments, with Paul Sherman in top form as soloist.

In a sense, the concert's pluralistic range was packed carefully into this single, moving work, ranging from playful to plaintive, with a section of fervid, bullying unison and a final, hypnotic oboe-flute duet.

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