Louisiana Sinfonietta concert review for March 19, 2013

Much of Sunday afternoon’s Louisiana Sinfonietta concert consisted of music composed by current and former members of the LSU music community.

The Sinfonietta’s next-to-last concert in its 30th season, conducted by Music Director Dinos Constantinides, cast classical selections by Franz Joseph Haydn, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Pietro Nardini, plus a Baroque piece by Georg Philipp Telemann, alongside compositions by LSU graduate students Joshua Carver and Harold Mims and LSU graduates Mikel LeDee and Ronaldo Cadeu.

The program’s major pieces also included Constantinides’ 1990 composition “Transformations for Clarinet and Chamber Orchestra.”

It’s possible that “Transformations” marks what will be last appearance with the Sinfonietta of soloist Robert DiLutis. A former professor of clarinet at LSU, DiLutis recently was appointed to the faculty of the University of Maryland.

If “Transformations” was indeed a farewell performance by DiLutis, he expertly navigated the dark musical terrain that Constantinides conjures in the work.

The gloomy first movement of “Transformations,” “Castles in the Air,” includes a macabre dance that suits the clarinet well. Although the tempo rises in the second movement, “Recollections,” and there’s a mood of danger, it’s still clearly part of the composer’s design.

Following “Tender Conversation,” the third and most esoteric “Transformations” movement, DiLutis’s clarinet lept and hopped through the energetic but still dark “On the Playground,” which concludes the piece with one of Constantinides’ characteristic flourishes.

Another LSU-linked musician, violinist Stefka Madere, moved from the ensemble to be soloist for Nardini’s Concerto for Violin in E minor.

Nardini, a now obscure Italian musician of the 18th century, led orchestras in Stuttgart and Florence. He was best known as a violinist, albeit more for his tone than his digital skill.

The Sinfonietta’s performance of his Concerto for Violinin E minor revealed he wasn’t a bad composer. Madere’s bright violin tone, however, contrasted with historical accounts of Nardini’s sweet, presumably warm tone.

Michael Gurt, LSU’s Paula G. Manship distinguished professor of piano and a frequent Sinfonietta guest soloist, joined the ensemble for Haydn’s Piano Concerto in D major. Gurt has proven a reliable staple of Sinfonietta concerts through the years, and Sunday’s performance was no exception. He articulated the music’s trilled melodies, downward plunges and brisk ascents with his usual precision.

The afternoon’s third soloist, Shanna Drescher, another LSU graduate, performed Ledet’s short, impressionist “Piece for Flute and Strings” and Mozart’s pastoral “Andante for Flute and Orchestra.”

As bleak and sometimes dissonant as Cadeu’s “Doze Cores (Twelve Colors for Strings)” was, its greatest disappointment may have been that the composer, an excellent guitarist who’d previously performed at Sinfonietta concerts, did not include a part for himself — or any other guitarist — in the piece.