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MUSIC REVIEW; A hard guy to encompass; American Composers Festival 2006 sets itself the daunting task of getting a handle on Lou Harrison's hedonism.
[HOME EDITION]
Los Angeles Times - Los Angeles, Calif.
Subjects: World music; Classical music; Musical performances -- -Multiple review
Author: Swed, Mark
Date: May 23, 2006
Start Page: E.3
Section: Calendar; Part E; Calendar Desk
Abstract (Document Summary)

Friday's program split [Lou Harrison]'s personality between Java and Paris. The first half featured a typical Harrison hybrid from the early 1980s -- the Double Concerto for Violin, Cello and Javanese Gamelan, with Raymond Kobler and Timothy Landauer accompanied by the Harvey Mudd College American Gamelan. The second half was devoted to French-tinged ballet suites from 1949 -- "Solstice" and "The Marriage at the Eiffel Tower" -- written when Harrison was briefly living in New York and under Virgil Thomson's influence.

Sunday night, Harrison's personality got split a second way. First came a look at the influence on him of Henry Cowell, the rough- hewn composer from the Bay Area who led the early 20th century assault on the piano and who was among the first composers to collect music from around the world. Two formal, late Harrison chamber pieces, "Ariadne" and the Grand Duo for violin and piano, made up the second half.

Grand Duo, with its curious combination of Western sonata form, ancient dance and polka, got what was surely its grandest performance when Jennifer Koh joined [Ursula Oppens]. Written in 1988, this major work had not until Sunday attracted major soloists. Koh was free and rhapsodic, Oppens commanding. But as with much else in this admirably ambitious festival, there were compromises. The wondrous Air, the score's longest movement and its heart, was omitted. And Koh miscalculated by applying vibrato, which is not part of Harrison performance practice. Hedonism isn't as simple as it sounds.

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