Saturday night's Scandinavian Festival at American University was given in the Kay Spiritual Life Center, a hall with uneven acoustics but with the sort of intimacy that adds immeasurably to the performance of chamber music. This was the second of the three concerts of the series and was a resounding affirmation of the universal, rather than ethnic, scope of the artistic imagination of today's Scandinavian composers.
The program introduced a marvelous collection of pieces, marvelous for their variety and for the excellent fluency of their discourse.
The hit of the evening was Bergman's "Triumph of Being Here," a setting in an idiom reminiscent of Crumb's delicacy, of a poem full of Gothic imagery for soprano, flute and percussion. Clearly Bergman is not one to leave any stone unturned in the search for interesting sounds and effects, but he exploits these possibilities with taste and discretion. The microtonality and dramatic dialoguing was beautifully handled by soprano Elizabeth Kirkpatrick, flutist Jan Pompilo and percussionist Richard McCandless.
This was also the occasion of the premiere of Ulf Grahn's "Eldorado" for flute, clarinet, violin, prepared piano and baritone. Poe's poem is treated to an involuted and tortured examination here, in which the image of the shadow is pervasive. It is a dark and pessimistic piece that communicates its message skillfully. Baritone Jerome Barry sang with both accuracy and beauty, but did not manage to project the text clearly.
There were also rather simple but effective pieces by Eiriksdotter and Lunde, a splendid violin sonata by Nielsen and a rather knotty and difficult work by Back, all interesting and all worthy of far wider acquaintance.