Adventure was in the air last night at the Pan American Union as members of the Catholic University Orchestra tapped that vast resource known as neglected beautiful music. Although billed as a student concert, the evening was much more.
There was a noisy opening with Lou Harrison's Concerto for Violin with Percussion Orchestra, a 1959 work whose original trendy title in Esperanto gave but a hint of the various influences that so happily converged in this score. The hordes of percussion instruments included hanging clay pots, tin pans and a contrabasso suspended from a steel bar. Over these colorful rhythmns a pensive, strong line is drawn with the violin, and Pamela Grubbe was a model of romantic vigor. The middle movement particularly pleased, as the bass added dark clouds to the musical texture, with the violin's gentle drizzle shadowing the chimes.
A ravishing cadenza anticipated Einstein's solos from Philip Glass's Einstein on the Beach." The student musicians handled the intricate score with aplomb, precision and feeling.
After the premiere of Poulenc's Sonata for Two Clarinets in 1918, Jean Cocteau remarked that the work "emerges out of silence and returns to it like a cuckoo clock." This airy work is fun, and none of its capricious thrills was lost in this performance by Russell Shipley and Susan Frye.
Falla's rarely performed "Psyche" had some fine ensemble playing, with the haunting flute of Susan Zeh shining as much as the curiously Slavic timbre of Mary Ellen Caine's mezzo-soprano. The concert closed with Luciano Berio's "Folksongs," a work that finds that most avant garde of vocal composes in an almost conventional mood. The suite begins with John Jacob Niles' "Black is the Color," passing over several sources including Berio's own youthful love songs for Cathy Berberian and ending with a ballad in the language of Azerbaijan.