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Alea III: Alea International
by David Cleary
Monday, March 21, 2005, 8:00 PM
When Alea III promises an "international" concert, they deliver. Of the seven works heard, five were from composers hailing from all corners of Europe while the rest were based in the United States .
Two duos provided the evening's most satisfying aural experiences. For violin and cello, The Swan by American composer Lawrence Moss speaks brusquely but unfolds in compelling fashion. Motivically tight, it outlines a large-scale diminuendo shape that persuades without seeming the least bit derivative. Estonian Mystic Minimalist Arvo Part presents one of his most successful short utterances in the piano/violin entry Fratres . It imaginatively assembles a fetching quilt festooned with violin virtuoso figures, grounding it all with a brief cadential gesture that returns rondo-style throughout.
Three selections from An American Decameron by Richard Felciano (U.S.) and Dromenon II by Iakovos Konitopoulos (Greece), while scored for the same Pierrot -plus-percussion-plus-voice ensemble, sound quite different, thanks to the former's clangorous harmonic language and discontinuous accompaniments versus the latter's somewhat fuller backing textures and unabashed modalism . But both do provide tellingly idiomatic lines for their mezzo-soprano soloist to sing. Decent listens both.
French tonemeister Gilbert Amy's En Harmonies works less well, lacking convincing long-range architecture, exhibiting marginal logic in its forward motion, and possessing more than its share of flat-out ugly writing for its solo harpist. Neither In Memoriam Bledi Llangozi for solo cello by Albania 's Altin Volaj nor Cut II for mixed sextet by Germany 's Bernd Franke proved wholly successful either, but these at least contained one riveting passage each. Volaj's work ends with the cellist quietly singing a haunting tune while strumming simple chords, an arresting foil to the more generically athletic music that precedes . Cut II begins promisingly enough with striking up-bow crescendi in the two violins and viola, but quickly runs out of ideas.
Performances were generally good. Harpist Judy Saiki dealt with En Harmonies's often crabbed writing with commendable grace, while Mark Simcox's easy, fluid virtuosity nicely suited Volaj's entity. Krista Buckland Reisner occasionally struggled with the challenging violin part in Fratres , but was consistently strong in Moss's composition (joined ably here by Simcox ). Angelica Cathariou boasted a bright, penetrating voice with more power than the average mezzo-soprano, though her Greek diction was truer than her heavily accented English. Conductor Theodore Antoniou confidently led his players in the Franke and the two vocal items.
Not everything encountered on this trip around the musical world proved memorable, but enough pleased here to justify attending this worthwhile concert.