by Mark Greenberg
Takemitsu is not an easy sell. Only Milton Babbitt could come away from a Takemitsu concert whistling the tunes. Still, Antigoni Goni — who has already proven herself a superb interpreter of technically demanding music — made her case in a concert focused on works for guitar and flute at the Miller Theatre on January 22, 2004.
She immediately presented both the strengths and difficulties of her job in Equinox for solo guitar. This sort of music is enough to wipe the smile from any guitarist’s face — and from many a listener’s. It was a difficult way to begin an evening, but she did a credible job with the obviously brilliant music.
Far more successful was Toward the Sea, a difficult but lovely and poetic piece. The songs, arranged for guitar, show Takemitsu as an arranger of genius. The high point, however — for guitarists — was In the Woods. Goni wrote in the program notes of being deeply moved by Bream playing this music, and indeed there was something of Bream’s incisiveness and flair in her own interpretation. It was an excellent performance that easily won the audience over to a difficult idiom.
Laura Gilbert, Goni’s excellent flutist, excelled in Voice for solo flute, a work that is perhaps dated, but also brings back some nostalgia for this sort of thing. The performer shocks the audience by speaking, whispering, shouting, sputtering and repeating a variety of phrases (from Shakespeare, I would think) in a variety of languages. Gilbert captured both the humor and the poetry of the piece.
The evening concluded on a very different note: a performance of an early and earsplitting work in the most strident of atonal idioms — Valeria, for violin, cello, guitar, electric organ and stereophonic piccolos to guarantee bilateral deafness. While I am glad to have heard a piece with such odd scoring that utilizes guitar — just so that I now know what it is — it is not music that needs to be heard twice in an evening, or even a lifetime.