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Pennetier family presents artfully aural exhibition

April 04, 2006|Richard S. Ginell | Special to The Times

The French pianist and composer Jean-Claude Pennetier brought his family to the Getty Center on Sunday, but this wasn't a vacation visit. Rather, the Pennetiers -- Jean-Claude, his pianist wife, France, and their percussionist son, Georges -- make up three-fourths of L'Ensemble Pennetier, with onetime Angeleno (now Brooklynite) Christopher Thompson as an additional percussionist.

Needless to say, that lineup is unusual, with a repertoire that begins with Bartok's deliciously animated Sonata for Two Pianos and Percussion and almost stops dead thereafter. Still, with the help of some solo and duo spots, L'Ensemble Pennetier was able to fill a good deal of the afternoon in the Harold M. Williams Auditorium with no problem.

Alone, Jean-Claude opened with mellow, delicate yet clearly etched performances of three Debussy "Images" -- the only direct manifestation of the Getty's attempt to link the concert to its current Degas exhibition. Then, Jean-Claude and France, at a second lidless piano, captured the distinctly icy, clangorous ambience of Messiaen's "Amen du desir." Next the percussion hardware came into play, as Georges joined his folks in what was billed as the North American premiere of Bruno Ducol's "Treize Fenetres" -- an enterprising attempt by the ensemble (which commissioned it) to expand its repertoire. The roughly 25-minute work consists of 13 pointillistic vignettes featuring occasional taped voices and deadened plunking and strumming of piano strings. It is as spare and economical in gesture as the Bartok is busy and driving -- and alas, not nearly so interesting or cohesive.

Georges then displayed formidable coloristic skills in a fascinating improvisation titled "Variations en etoile," playing with and in response to an electronic tape prepared by Guy Reibel. Reibel is a protege of the French electronic music pioneer Pierre Schaeffer -- his vocabulary of period musique concrete gestures sounded like a direct homage -- and Georges was able to faithfully mimic some of the tape's pitch-bending contours on his timpani. Of course, the Bartok showpiece had to be the closer -- and with Thompson joining the Pennetiers, it rampaged and relaxed with just enough drive, sizzle and, in the finale, appealing jauntiness.


L'Ensemble Pennetier

Where: Orange County Performing Arts Center, Founders Hall, 600 Town Center Drive, Costa Mesa

When: 7:30 tonight

Price: $58

Contact: (714) 556-2787 or

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