The Chamber Music Society of Baltimore's season began last night with a splendidly performed concert by Speculum Musicae. This group of New York musicians makes the most challenging 20th-century music sound lucid, if not exactly easy. Last night, the ensemble played one terrific new work and two less successful ones.
The one this listener enjoyed was Mario Davidovsky's "Synchronisms #9 for Violin and Tape" (1988), which was expertly played by Guillermo Figueroa. "Synchronisms #9" asks the violinist to match the tape's contrasts in speed and timbre: This is not a matter of having the violinist make his instrument sound as if it were something else, but of making the instrument create a pyrotechnical display that equals those in a virtuosic solo by Ysaye or Sarasate.
Actually, the violin music that the Argentine-born Davidovsky seemed to have in mind was the music of J. S. Bach. The composer contrasted the violin's highly ordered style with the tape's indeterminate pitches. This work was no collection of sound effects, but a dramatic and witty contrapuntal argument.