Reprinted from yesterday's late editions
Monday night in the Corcoran Gallery, Jeffrey Mumford's Linear Cycles II had its world premier in a concert by the Contemporary Music Forum. It was given a place of honor between music by Japan's 48-year-old Toru Takemitsu and Ernst Krenek, who was born in Vienna 78 years ago.
Mumford is a Washingtonian in his early 20s, whose musical studies were at the University of California at Irvine, and later at Aspen under Charles Jones and Krzysztof Penderecki. Linear Cycles II is for violin and piano, a conversation between the two instruments in which, it turned out, the violin has a larger share of more attractive things to say.
While the piano is often limited to plucking single notes on muted strings, the violin is given long, sensuous lines that unfold in alluring ways. Mumford speaks of "layers" of conversation as responsible for these "extremes of textual differentiation."
It is the degree of the difference that causes the music to sound almost as if two separate compositions were involved. Might the two not speak with each other on more equal terms? The performances by violinist Helmut Braunlich and pianist Barbro Dahlman were ideal.
Takemitsu's "Eucalypts I" was in his familiar fragmentary pattern, with lovely moments for flute, oboe and harp.
In Krenek's extraordinary "Aulokithara," for winds, harp and electronic tape, Karen Lindquist and James Ostryniec, who had done handsomely in the Takemitsu, outdid themselves. The "winds," played by Ostryniec, were oboe. English horn, and oboe d'amore. Often one or another of these was played without benefit of reed. You would be amazed at the sounds that can be produced that way. The tape vacillated between syntheaized cliches and some ingenious matters woven into the fabric of the two live instruments.
Much of the musical thought was elegantly worked out, which made more disappointing those times when it sank to something near vulgarity.
The program included "Lo La," by Robert Lax, and a quintet by Charles Koechlin.