Ignore science, listen to Landini

High-energy piece celebrates UMBC at 40

December 14, 2006|By Tim Smith | Tim Smith,sun music critic

The title Coming to Life: Generation, Transition, Interlocking of Phases could be mistaken for a scientific treatise. So could the analytical note that Italian composer Carlo Alessandro Landini provided for this dense and arresting work, which was premiered Tuesday night at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.

In that note, Landini relates his music to thermodynamics, phase transition, the "lowest derivative of the free energy," entropy and disintegration. It's enough to make anyone leery of hearing the 20-minute score, commissioned and premiered by the fine contemporary music ensemble Ruckus to commemorate UMBC's 40th anniversary. (Landini just wrapped up a stint as visiting professor at UMBC.)

Fortunately, a grasp of deep scientific and intellectual matters is not required to enjoy the new piece. From the first eerie scratches of a cello that start Coming to Life, the ear is drawn into an eventful sound-world.

Landini employs a bracing atonality with such mastery of structure and such imaginative instrumental coloring that everything emerges with a compelling logic. Thermodynamic or otherwise, there is a clear, steady process at work, a build-up of tension and complexity that must be resolved.

In this case, when all the energy is spent, leaving only vague whisperings and, finally, just a few soft, high notes, there is a sense of issues settled -- at least for now. But enough electricity is left in the air to suggest another generation could start at any moment.

The virtuosic score, conducted sturdily by Jason Love, featured taut, expressive playing by Lisa Cella (flute), E. Michael Richards (clarinet), Airi Yoshioka (violin), Franklin Cox (cello), Kazuko Tanosaki (piano), Barry Dove and Tom Goldstein (percussion).


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