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AVANT-GARDE CONCERT WAS PIQUANT AND PLEASANT

SHARE AVANT-GARDE CONCERT WAS PIQUANT AND PLEASANT

A program that threatened people with the avant-garde may have scared some concertgoers away from Nova on Tuesday night; but for those who attended, the evening's music provided a highly pleasant experience.

Actually, names that were fearsome at the three-quarters mark of the century no longer carry the same wallop. Much of Ligeti's and Penderecki's music is beginning to sound quite mainstream, or has at least lost its power to shock, and Janacek's melodism has long been recognized in the midst of his energy, color and rhapsodic feeling.No doubt, among these three composers' music there is still plenty to shock and jar the conventionalist. But Ligeti, Penderecki and Janacek as presented by Nova were compatible companions for a spring evening, with just enough piquant elements to keep audience interest high.

Gyorgy Ligeti's "Six Bagatelles" for wind quintet made delightful, amusing listening as performed by Erich Graf on flute; James Hall, oboe; Edward Cabarga, clarinet; Mitchell Morrison, bassoon; and William Barnewitz, horn.

The bagatelles - pointed, cleanly defined and vari-colored miniatures - began with a zippy, jazzy Allegro with high flute solo, followed by a Rubato that juxtaposed strong unison melodies against discordant polyphonic comments, sometimes in chords as close as seconds. In the Allegro grazioso, flute and clarinet joined in a tuneful, legato duet, with accompanying instruments commenting in mechanical fragments. A Presto of incisive, uneven and repetitious rhythms led to the Adagio (dedicated to Bartok's memory) again with flute melody - a weird-sounding piece with accelerating tempo and repetitious harmonies, and finally a Vivace with crazy sonorities. Somehow it all added up to engrossing, urbane and amusing music.

Leos Janacek's Concertino for clarinet, bassoon, horn (artists as above), piano (Jonathan Purvin), violins (Gerald Elias and Lynette Stewart) and viola (Jeffrey Wagner) is about equally balanced between the piano on the one hand and the other instruments, and Purvin took charge in an authoritative, vibrant performance of this vigorous work.

The opening Moderato was primarily a reflective, conversational duet for piano and French horn, and the Piu mosso featured the clarinet in a jazzy, declamatory exchange, with florid and ornamental passages. In the Con moto all instruments joined in 4/4 rhythm, at some times militant and marked, in other instances melodic and flowing, liberally sprinkled with dissonance, and coming to an emphatic chordal summation. A playful Allegro closed the piece.

Thanks to Nova for programming Janacek, a compelling composer of intriguing depths, who is too seldom heard by concert audiences.

Krzysztof Penderecki's Capriccio for solo tuba featured Michael Sanders in a thorough traversal of the technical and coloristic possibilities of his instrument. There was little conventional melody, but much verticality and many musical pranks in this amusing piece, which sometimes found the low, resonant instrument sounding like a whale in agony.

Richard Strauss's "Till Eulenspiegels Lustige Streiche" lacked no essential element in sonority, color or humor in a quintet arrangement by Franz Hasenohrl for clarinet, bassoon, horn, violin (Elias) and bass (Lisa Allyn). Actually, "Till" made charming, intimate listening in the museum's warm wooden hall, as the wind instruments skillfully coordinated and boldly declaimed the many sound effects that tone-paint the merry traveler's adventures. The whimsical romantic references of the violin passages was equally enjoyable.

Nova will be back in 1990-91 with five concerts, and such guest artists as Lani Poulson, mezzo soprano; Konrad Nelson, harp; pianist Leslie Howard, violinist Joseph Silverstein, and soprano JoAnn Ottley.