The faculty of the University of Maryland Music Department provided a veritable "feast for the ears" Saturday night in their Artist Scholarship Benefit Series concert in Tawes Recital Hall. In the heady company of a handful of works by Igor Stravinsky were four compositions by Maryland composers--pieces of imagination, craft and beauty that quickly dispelled any notion that the Stravinsky part of the "Stravinsky and Friends" program title was needed to give the evening substance.
Delicacy of sonority marked both Larry Moss' aphoristic "Somewhere Inside Me . . ." and Robert Gibson's "Concordia" for six cellos, the latter composed specifically for this concert. The richness of the cello's middle and upper register is well-served by Gibson as he exploits a variety of contrapuntal and chordal textures, while Moss balances an intensely lyric soprano part with an amazing variety of sounds drawn from only guitar and flute.
More demanding on the audience but equally intriguing was a Webernesque "Gestures" by Thomas DeLio, in which fragmentary statements of material were punctuated by carefully measured periods of silence. Mark Wilson's "Windows" is an electronic tape piece with slide projections of stained-glass windows synchronized with changes in the music; this provides a stunning dialogue in which organ and bell sounds and the reverberant ambiance of a Gothic cathedral were easy to recognize.
Of the Stravinsky works, most significant were 11 songs chosen from his early and late periods. The composer is not so well-known for this repertoire, partially because so few sopranos have the purity of tone and accuracy of intonation to control the angular but nonetheless lyric lines. Washington's artistic treasure, Phyllis Bryn-Julson, has those qualities in abundance and was in peak form on this occasion. Her instrumental partners were, however, no less capable, performing with stylistic sensitivity throughout the evening.