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Avram David demonstrates pure polyphony in new work


Conducted by Theodore Antoniou.

Premiere of work by Avram David.

Works by Sandor Balassa,

Dinos Constantinides, Isang Yun

and Roberto Gerhard.

Boston University Concert Hall, March 23.


AVRAM DAVID has always been fascinated by polyphony and reflected this in his work. Now, in search of perfect polyphony he has come out with a one-of-a-kind composition, in which twelve independent voices play on the ear and mind, no two of their independent melodic phrases beginning or ending at the same moment. As performed at its premiere last night by Alea III (for whom it was written), it was mesmerizing.

It is scored for violin, viola, cello, bass, flute, clarinet, cor anglais, bassoon, horn, trumpet, trombone and vibraphone, and each has its distinct role, but finds its place in a wide-ranging and open dynamic. The sound is of many voices simultaneously speaking, with a spotlight gently gliding through to highlight the melodies of one, then another.

There is some bright and attractive writing for trumpet (nicely played by Bruce Hall), intense music for the viola and cello, and passages of lyrical sweetness for the violin. The brass adds spectacle, the winds vivid coloration, as well as depth.

If sounds emanate from all directions, the vibraphone rides on top, its penetrating output the icing on a multi-flavored cake.

Also notable was Reflections IV by Dinos Constantinidis. His work, scored for voice, flute, harp and piano is based on a poem by Constantine R. Kavavis, and was sung in Greek by soprano Judith Kellock. She did a wonderful job of bringing out its pungent and quintessentially Greek emotions. Her singing was evocative, often touching and, as the piece progressed, increasingly mystic. The interaction of instruments emphasizes the drama in the words: the scoring is imaginative, and its realization by Alea III was compelling.

The concert began with Antinomia by Sandor Balassa: two songs for soprano, clarinet and cello. Though both had interest, the second seemed to have grater depth, pathos underlined in clarinet and cello music invoking the onset of night. Judith Kellock once more put in a sterling performance.

The works after the intermission were less gripping. Isang Yun's Monolog for Bassoon explores the far limits of the instrument's range, but does not display the greatest of substance.

The concluding piece, Concerto for Eight by Roberto Gerhard, is entirely pretentious. It is written for an unusual combination of instruments (including a mandolin and guitar), and they are played in unconventional ways: the guitar is made to sound with a bow for part of the time, for example. This is supposedly intended to evoke a sense of commedia dell'arte comedy.

There is plenty of facile larking around, but in terms of musical interest, the piece is empty. Alea III did the best with it they could.