Every year since 1953 the Kindler Foundation has commissioned and had performed a new work in memory of the founder and first conductor of the National Symphony Orchestra.
Last night amid the glories of the Music Room at Dumbarton Oaks, this year's new music, Zones, by Belgian Jacqueline Fontyn, had its premiere. Scored for flute, clarinet, cello, percussion and piano, the music runs a little over a quarter of an hour.
It is built of what must be called some of the cliches of the past generation: fingers sweeping across the piano strings, much vibraphone, glissandos on the cello and flutter tonguing from the flute. Opening wisps of sound set up an atmospheric smog that disperses as succeeding zones become more aggressive.
The wisps give way to bleeps but at no point is any new way of using these insubstantial means suggested. Other than a certain exotic quality in some of the sounds, there is a sense of a futile past trying one more to assert itself.
An ensemble from Maryland University that included the instruments needed for Fontyn's music preceded it with the Beethoven Clarinet Trio, Op. 11, a feeble work by Sydney Hodkinson called Drawings, and part of Claude Bolling's appalling suite for flute and jazz piano -- which would never have made it in the bars on North Michigan Avenue in Chicago, or even in the Mayflower Lounge in the good old days. The evening closed with a D major Flute Trio of Haydn.