A very mixed (and, happily, very large) crowd - partly academic and partly the kind of audience you'd expect at a rock concert - gathered yesterday at the National Academy of Sciences Auditorium.
What brought them together for a thundering expression of shared satisfaction was a well-chosen and brilliantly performed concert by the 20th Century Consort - music by composers ranging from the grandfather of modernism, Arnold Schoenberg, to the cutting edge of the avant-garde, Peter Maxwell Davies. Even with one serious disappointment, the program was a triumph for 20th-century music.
The high point was the first number, Davies' "Antechrist," a reworking of 15th-century material using techniques related to the practices of that period with an impact that was totally integrated and strikingly modern.
Larry Nelson's Nocturne for cello and piano was a striking example of the current trend to neo-romanticism, using advanced techniques for an effect that should please large audiences. Richard Wernick's "Kaddish-Requiem," as its name implies, uses traditional Jewish and Catholic materials in a contemporary musical framework with powerful effect.
The only disappointment was Schoenberg's "Pierrot Lunaire," which got a superb instrumental performance but a rather small-scaled soft-edged vocal interpretation in an English translation that did not always quite fit.