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PERFORMING ARTS

Friday, February 25, 2005; Page C04

Ryan Cabrera

Piercing shrieks punctuated Ryan Cabrera's set on Wednesday night at the Birchmere. While those screeches turned to chatter during some of his slower songs, the energy of the primarily teenage crowd mostly remained at pep-rally level. Girls alternated riding piggyback to give each other a better view of the stage, digital cameras (and camera phones) waved in the air at every moment, and one girl mysteriously raised a stiletto-heeled shoe over her head for much of the show.

It's no surprise Cabrera has achieved this status among the high school crowd: his voice is oh-so-smooth, his lyrics are oh-so-sensitive, and his spiked hair and quick grin are oh-so-dreamy.


Trio di Clarone presented music for clarinet fans at the Library of Congress. (Library Of Congress)

Cabrera took the crowd's energy in stride, literally dancing into Paula Abdul's "Straight Up" in the middle of his song "Echo Park." But nothing he did seemed to wear his fans out: Among their unsurprising confessions of love, one girl screamed, "I want your body!" By contrast, there were no such lewd remarks during opener Aslyn's set. She mirrored Cabrera's spunkiness, her curly hair flopping over her keyboard as she banged out a sassy cover of Billy Joel's "Movin' Out."

-- Catherine P. Lewis

Trio di Clarone

For many connoisseurs of the clarinet, Sabine Meyer is the European ideal of single-reed artistry. In concert with her ensemble, Trio di Clarone, Wednesday night at the Library of Congress, Meyer took that ideal to new heights.

Her spectacular rendition of Darius Milhaud's "Scaramouche" Suite for Clarinet and Piano confirmed her supreme musicianship. Creating a drama with inflections that shifted phrase by phrase -- lyrical, humorous, flirtatious, serene, exuberant -- Meyer periodically cast a sideways glance to make sure the audience was getting it all. Pianist Kalle Randalu anticipated every move as the clarinetist practically danced about the stage in the "Brazilei" movement. Meyer finished the piece with complete composure but left the audience breathless.

The sight and sound of three basset horns in Mozart's Divertimento in F was unusual, but the resulting music made one wonder why the instrument has been used so rarely during the past 200 years. Visually similar to the modern alto clarinet, the basset horn has a mellower tone and greater range. The Trio di Clarone -- Meyer, her brother Wolfgang Meyer and her husband, Reiner Wehle -- captured the dramatic quality of the music with arpeggios smooth as glass providing a backdrop for the melody.

Sabine Meyer took center stage in Mozart's "Kegelstatt" Trio for piano, clarinet and basset horn. Wehle's basset horn made an interesting substitution for the original viola part, though he was sometimes overshadowed by Meyer's keener clarinet timbre.

French composers seem to revel in writing music for woodwinds, and the ensemble's performances of Francis Poulenc's Sonata for Two Clarinets and Jean Francaix's Quartet captured whimsical moods as they exploited the expressive range of the instruments, concluding the evening with a bit of French fun.

-- Gail Wein

Mingus Big Band

The Music Center at Strathmore received its jazz christening Wednesday night, when the Mingus Big Band performed a program titled "Blues & Politics." In true Charles Mingus fashion, the two themes were often inseparable.

Certainly that was the case when the 14-member ensemble performed "Meditation on a Pair of Wire Cutters," a Mingus piece that soulfully alluded to the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II. At another point saxophonist and musical director Craig Handy dedicated "Tensions," a composition distinguished by sharp tonal contrasts and headlong rhythmic swagger, to President Bush for "keeping things tense in general." Then, Handy added, "I hope the CIA doesn't bug our bus."

Although the Mingus Big Band released a CD titled "Blues & Politics" six years ago, the concert at Strathmore, presented by the Washington Performing Arts Society, reached far beyond the scope of that recording. Ku-umba Frank Lacy was a gravelly crooner on the 1947 ballad "Baby, Take a Chance With Me," robustly supported by baritone saxophonist Ronnie Cuber, and Earl McIntyre put down his bass trombone long enough to fashion a lighthearted interlude on tuba. Several gifted soloists were featured throughout the performance, including trumpeter Eddie Henderson, pianist Orrin Evans, bassist Boris Kozlov and tenor saxophonist Seamus Blake, who sparked a haunting interpretation of "Sweet Sucker Dance."

Unfortunately, reedman John Stubblefield, sidelined by illness, isn't touring with the group. His presence, however, was felt when the band performed his vibrantly textured and stirring arrangement of "Song With Orange."


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