It takes a certain kind of self-confidence for a composer to title one of his works "Delights and joys that bless the soul," as Jacob Druckman did with a piece he composed 10 years ago for tape and wind quintet. The name smacks of chutzpah, even when it is in a foreign language and there are solid musicological reasons for it.
Perhaps Druckman would have chosen another title if he had thought his work would be played on the same program with Mozart's Quintet in E-flat for piano and winds--truly and obviously a series of delights and joys that bless the soul. But modern composers expect to share programs with Babbitt and Stockhausen, not Mozart. In that sort of company Druckman's work might sound refreshing.
When the Theater Chamber Players perform in the Terrace Theater, as they did twice last weekend, juxtapositions of Mozart and Druckman or Schubert and Scho nberg are a part of the basic policy. Each program given by this excellent, imaginative ensemble pairs old music with new, and a special illumination often results from the implied comparison. Mozart's world emerged as one of fixed realities, established forms and stable expectations readily fulfilled. Druckman's is a world struggling to regain the kind of order that began to dissolve near the end of Mozart's life: a world of tension, fragmented perceptions, advanced technology with vaguely menacing overtones; a world searching its memory for models of order that it may or may not be able to accept.
The music is built on thematic elements from a Italian baroque aria ("Delizie contente che l'alme beate" by Cavalli) which gradually comes into focus from fragmented memories (largely on the tape) and is commented on by the live players. It is a fascinating work, very rich in texture and in some ways more sophisticated than the exuberant, melodious Mozart--but enjoying it requires a bit of hard work. The Theater Chamber Players made that work relatively easy, but they received more help from the composer in the Mozart Quintet. Pianist Dina Koston, substituting for Leon Fleisher, played beautifully.
A highlight of the program was the world premiere of "Ghostfires," a cycle of three songs by John Anthony Lennon (not to be confused with the late Beatle) to texts by James Joyce. Its instrumentation (flute, guitar, harp and mezzo-soprano) is identical with that of Stravinsky's Four Songs, which opened the program, except that Lennon requires the soprano also to play a bit of rudimentary percussion. It is beautifully crafted music, moody and highly evocative, with some fascinating sound textures. On first hearing, it did not seem to be music in the service of words (a traditional ideal) but rather music incorporating some very vivid words into its own complex coloristic resources. Still, it worked very well--largely through the intelligence and rich vocal resources of mezzo Janice Felty, who also sang superbly in the folk-flavored Stravinsky.
Two solos for plucked intruments rounded out the program. Guitarist David Starobin gave a virtuoso performance of Lennon's brilliant, melodious but rather insubstantial "Another's Fandango," and harpist Karen Lindquist explored a variety of Japanese impressionistic effects in George Rochberg's "Ukiyo-e" ("Pictures of the Floating World"). The effect of this music, which evokes the koto and the world of geishas, would have been a bit more striking if Lindquist had looked less anxious while performing it and had not made such a clatter with her pedals in a few tricky passages.