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Contemporary Chamber Players

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CONTEMPORARY CHAMBER PLAYERS

In the Ralph Shapey years, the Contemporary Chamber Players, while open-minded, tended to favor older, east-coast establishment figures--those stubborn, at times inventive adherents of 20th-century Eurocentric aesthetic currents. The new music director, Stephen Mosko, belongs to a younger generation that fuses diverse influences. Just as important, he's based on the west coast, always a hotbed of experimentalism. For this latest CCP concert, he's come up with an all-California program showcasing Bay Area and LA elders and upstarts. Lou Harrison and Mel Powell, both over 70, began their careers as east-coast mavericks before turning to "serious" composition: Harrison worked in New York as a dancer and dance accompanist; Powell toured as a keyboardist in Glenn Miller's and Benny Goodman's bands. Harrison synthesizes musical dialects in the polyglot San Francisco, his home since the early 50s. His 1948 ballet score The Perilous Chapel, on the CCP program, reflects his penchant for simple sophistication and for weaving pan-Asian melodic strands into delicate, transparent textures. Powell is also a meticulous craftsman with an ear for expressive melodic lines and an uncanny ability to place them in complex musical structures. John Adams and James Newton, both in their 40s, can be seen as the Harrison and Powell of our day. Adams injects pop-culture references into his pseudominimalist style, casting a veneer of irreverence over serious European traditions. His 1992 Chamber Symphony is a prime example: its manic energy recalls Warner Brothers cartoons while its instrumentation and title pay homage to Schoenberg. The LA-based Newton, like Powell, traces his roots to jazz, but his musical ancestry is far more eclectic. Thursday, May 30, 8 PM, Mandel Hall, University of Chicago, 1131 E. 57th; 702-8068. TED SHEN

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Stephen Mosko.

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