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Le Nouvel adds tango, folk to chamber mix

October 24, 2002|Josef Woodard | Special to The Times

Montreal's fine contemporary chamber group Le Nouvel Ensemble Moderne avoided the familiar model of a new music concert at the opening of this season's Monday Evening Concerts series at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Instead of a concert stocked with newly minted or well-established pieces, the ensemble culled intriguing scores from the '80s forward.

When performed with the energy and clarity of director Lorraine Vaillancourt's group, this approach nurtures the notion that contemporary music as a whole has genuine shelf life.

A theme of sorts emerged: music about music, and the ways that external influences and musical structures and effects can be creatively rerouted. There wasn't a "straight" piece in the lot.

Framing the program were Inouk Demers' "Lo que vendra" and composer Carlos Sanchez-Gutierrez's rugged "Son del Corazon," the former colored by tango, the latter by Huesteco folk music from central Mexico. Tango is all but subsumed into Demers' essentially abstract language, with only teasing hints of tango passion slipping through.

Folkloric Mexican elements have more sway in Sanchez-Gutierrez's piece, with a bounding vigor and muscular effects sometimes, logically, borrowed from "The Rite of Spring."

Musical form was the putty in Pascal Dusapin's "Coda," marked by a dramatic struggle within the notes as they vied to cohere and to break loose. Composer Franco Donatoni's "Arpege" was a highlight.

Overall, the concert conveyed ideas that are cerebral at the core, but underlined with a visceral one-two punch.

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