Performance at Montevallo Was Not the Same Old Concert

The Birmingham News – October 8, 1996

By Nancy Raabe
News staff writer

We’ve all been to one too many concerts where the main message was that of sameness. Perhaps it was the same kind of music written in the same style and played the same way, or maybe it was one of those all-Beethoven or all-Brahms programs where sameness, used as a substitute for creative programming, is glorified, even deified.

There are remedies. One is an event like that Monday night at the University of Montevallo, produced by the Birmingham Art Music Alliance, which roused all in need out of the stupor of similarity.

On this occasion, a crowd of about 150 in Montevallo’s LeBaron Recital Hall enjoyed a widely varied, thoughtfully designed journey through different modes of contemporary musical thought.

It began with the relative conservatism of the late Harold Beerman’s lean, carefully crafted “Impromptu” for flute and piano. UM senior Donald Ashworth and staff accompanist Laurie Middaugh gave voice to the work’s modest nobility through close attention to its elegant vertical sonorities.

Progressing toward the more overtly experimental, the evening climaxed with a recreation of Vivian Adelberg Rudow’s arresting three-way dialogue for live cello and decorated cello cases, “With Love.”

Inspired a decade ago by the similarity between a cello case and a woman’s shape, Rudow challenged the observer to decorate two cases in contrasting styles-one as a flamboyant daughter and the other a more conservatively clad mother. With speakers behind each case, she ran “unmarried, spirited” music through the daughter case and, through the mother case, a collage of interviews with 23 people about their own mothers, and mothers with their own thoughts on motherhood.

Positioned between them, the live cellist is called upon to carry on a dialogue with both surrounding characters in musical terms ranging from hyperactivity to blues to a prolonged dreamy ballad. With the skilled contributions of cellist Craig Hultgren, the result on this occasion was at once poignant, whimsical, deeply musical (the spoken words were electronically arranged so as to fit in with surrounding musical rhythms, yet seemed perfectly natural) and outrageously entertaining.

Serving as an appropriate denouement was UM faculty composer Edwin Robertson’s richly atonal “Three Movements for Two Pianos.” In this committed reading by Jane Gibbs and Norma Dean, each of the concise movements advanced a compelling musical argument from start to finish.