The Substitute Soundtrack

I keep not having the space to remember one more concert of recent weeks, the LA County Museum's program by the Toronto-based Penderecki String Quartet—another of those fearless ensembles that thrive unfazed on daunting new music and perform it with joy and intelligence commingled. Their program this time consisted of second quartets—Szymanowski, Bartůk, Ligeti. As an encore, rather than the expected tidbit from somewhere or other, they threw in another whole work, the Second of their namesake Penderecki—phenomenal, complex music infused with great spirit. At the end, after nearly two hours of music that carried both technique and expression to far horizons, they invited the audience—pleasantly large, as these events go—to come onstage, look at their music and ask questions.

It was a lovely event, the chance to hang out for nearly an extra hour with splendid, dedicated young musicians and hear them out on, for example, what it takes to coordinate an ensemble where one performer has, say, 16 notes to play in time with another's 15. Nobody seemed anxious to leave, and when we did it was with the sense of having been brought unexpectedly, delightfully close to some challenging creativity. More of this sort of thing should happen—not the jabberwocky of the "symposium" on the meaning of genius that preceded the Zacharias concert at the Music Center last Thursday night, but something that puts into simple, meaningful language what it is that keeps us involved in the musical world as that world crumbles around us bit by bit—and why we bother.

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