Last night at the Hirshhorn the 20th Century Consort offered a provocative program that triggered a number of associations and emotions, including, in the case of the final work by Rochberg, anger.
Opening the concert was a short, atmospheric work for chamber orchestra by Dallapiccola with haunting Schubertian echoes in its descending thirds. A musical equivalent of DeChirico's dreamlike pictures, the music's evocative quality was caught with delicate precision by the ensemble.
By a small miracle both pianist Lambert Orkis and the tape recorder seemed to be having a splendid time in the following-piece, Davidovsky's finely crafted and witty "Synchronisms No. 6 for Piano and Electronic Sounds." Less miraculous but no less engaging was Ibert's delightful trio for violin, cello and harp, which benefited particularly from harpist Dotian Carter's lively playing. Earl Kim's "Dead Calm" for soprano and small ensemble was as concentrated and fragmentary as its Samuel Beckett text and even more frustrating to absorb, despite an intense performance.
George Rochberg's "Electrikaleidoscope," pretentious and empty like its title, seemed the sad effort of a composer with nothing to say and no language to say it in. Its musical premise is flimsy, consisting mainly of certain parallels' between rock's monotonous repetitions and Stravinskian ostinatos. Its language is all borrowed, with nothing new added, and its message is nonexistent. Tacking on to the Adagio movement a memorial to the Israeli Olympic athletes killed in 1972 comes across as a cheap play for purpose. The work was waste of time for five fine musicians.