The 20th Century Consort continues to put together provocative programs. Yesterday at the Hirshhorn, they teamed a pair of world premieres with youthful works of two of this century's anchor men, Messiaen and Schoenberg.
Yes, both the religious romanticism of Messiaen's "La Mort du Nombre" and the robust mysticism of Schoenberg's "Verklarte Nacht" sounded a little old hat in this company.
But neigher of the new works of the evening defined any particular place for itself at all.
Davidovsky's Fourth String Quartet is of the high-strung school of contemporary writing in which a sort of pervasive intense restlessness seems to be the primary message.
"The Imperial River" by Warren Luther, on the other hand, appears to be music for now, for the moment.
After four sections, which reflect a nice way with textures and instrumentation, Luther suddenly unleashes a bunch of sound effects -- whistles, sirens, raspberries -- a whole bag of tricks. This is followed by some more discrete fooling around, and then an instrumental epilogue that recaptures some of the coherence of the beginning. The point of it all is elusive.
Predictably, Christopher Kendall and his Consort gave fine performances, culminating in a glowing account of the Schoenberg.