Last night's program by the 20th Century Consort in the Kennedy Center Concert Hall reached back to the 12th century for the music drama, "Filius Getronis," or "Son of Getron," and came up to George Crumb's 1972 Makrokosmos, Book One. Surrounding these, Christopher Kendall's superlative musicians played Maxwell Davies' "AnteChrist" and Igor Stravinsky's burlesque story "Renard," done in dance, song and mime.
The evening was a daring and imaginative melange that came off with great success, aside from certain reservations about the presentation of the Crumb.
Everything was staged, from the halo of light that surrounded the orchestra during Davies' curtain-raiser, to the witty kiddies' slide and Corn Flakes that splashed through "Renard."
Since the Davies is based on the plain chant that is used early in the medieval play, there was hardly a break from the overture to the moment when members of the Folger Consort, joined by members from the National Shrine Choir and soloists, moved onto the stage in procession for the ancient drama. With expert stage direction and effective sets, the "Getron" was beautfully sung and acted.
"Renard," from Stravinsky's World War I days, takes on brilliance from the cut-glass sounds of the chamber ensemble and male quartet that accompany the story of the fox, the cock, the cat, the goat and the hens. Children love it, and so, obviously, do adults.
As the barnyard fowl, members of the Street 70 Mime Troupe made fine contributions. These works demand musical direction of unerring taste and style if they are not to seem strange companions on any one program. Christopher Kendall had every element of each in hand.
Lambert Orkis was the pianist for Makrokosmos, playing in almost total darkness. Since the music is a journey through the signs of the Zodiac, with added mystical labels such as "Crucifixus," and "The Magic Circle of Infinity.' the unusually theatrical dark and shadow seemed appropriate. Nevertheless, it added a note that Crumb does not suggest, which at times made it easy for some in the audience to snicker and giggle.