Contemporary Vocal Ensemble | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Contemporary Vocal Ensemble 

Contemporary Vocal Ensemble

North of the border, Mexican composer Mario Lavista is almost unknown outside academic circles. In his native country, however, he's recognized as the most influential musician since Carlos Chavez: he ushered in the New Instrumental Renaissance, a movement that emulated the European avant-garde and its desire to expand the ways Western instruments can be used. In one of his better-known works, Reflejos de la noche ("Reflections of the Night"), a string quartet is asked to sound as if it were amplified. The effect, I'm told, is spooky and affecting, filled with echoey give-and-take--sort of like Xenakis on acid. (In fact, Lavista did study with the mathematically attuned Greek experimenter, as well as with Chavez, Boulanger, and Stockhausen.) A piece for solo viola that was performed in Chicago for the first time a couple of weeks ago reveals a similarly vivid instrumental palette. Lavista's music also reflects his love for the written word: among other things, he's set a Carlos Fuentes novella, Aura, to opera and used Borges's Ficciones as an inspiration for an orchestral work. This Friday an arrangement of his Missa Brevis ad Consolationis Dominam Nostram will be performed by the Contemporary Vocal Ensemble, an outstanding outfit affiliated with Indiana University's school of music. The work is contemplative and somber, yet utterly imaginative in weaving the five voices and three accompanying strings through the Latin text--a succinct demonstration of the relevance of spirituality in a postmodern context. It'll be contrasted with U. of C. professor John Eaton's mass, an almost operatic presentation that involves only one voice backed by piano, percussion, and clarinet. The conductor is Carmen Tellez, a Venezuelan now teaching at Indiana, at whose request Lavista wrote Missa Brevis. Friday, 8 PM, Rockefeller Memorial Chapel, University of Chicago, 5850 S. Woodlawn; 773-702-3427 or 773-702-8069.


Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Carmen Tellez photo by Helane Anderson.

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