In December, the first time Catholic University's contemporary music program was scheduled at the Organization of American States, it was canceled because of a bomb scare. Musical conservatives might have hoped for a similar threat to halt the proceedings again, and a few of them left at intermission. But for lovers of contemporary sounds, it was a most exciting concert: rarely heard music of high quality in generally excellent performances.
The program, by students and faculty members, seemed specially chosen for the acoustics of the Hall of the Americas. In the first half, each piece was for a single instrument--flute, oboe, violin and cello in turn--with reverberation enlarging and prolonging the tone, making the solo instrument sound less lonely. After intermission, the size of the forces on stage kept growing: first, a duet for flute and cello by Villa-Lobos, then the exotic "Firdausi" of Hovhaness, evocatively played by clarinetist Anthony Fabrizio, harpist Phyllis Mauney and percussionist Randall Eyles.
Finally two chamber concertos were played under the baton of Robert Ricks. In Ibert's Concerto for cello and winds, the orchestra produced delicate pastel shades to balance the deep, rich tone of Ormand Bontempo's cello. In Henze's brilliantly playful Concertino, a powerful brass section hurled massive sonorities against the nimble, delicate filigree of Thomas Mastroianni's piano.
Outstanding among the solo works in the first half were Britten's "Six Metamorphoses after Ovid," which use the unaccompanied oboe's agility and rich variety of tone to paint a striking, superbly contrasted series of sound-pictures. Oboist Kathleen Schietroma gave an outstanding performance. Also specially impressive was cellist Robert Park in Ginastera's "Punena No. 2," which sometimes has the cello strings simultaneously roaring under pressure of the bow and twanging with left-hand pizzicato, sounding something like a guitarist thrown into a lions' cage. Flutist Susan Klick was impressive in the awesome technical challenges of Jolivet's "Three Incantations," as was violinist Larry Crosley in Guillermo Graetzer's "Grave."