From The Atlanta Journal and Constitution, Jan. 21, 1989

Chamber Players Are Adept at 'Conversation'

By Derrick Henry
Classical Music Critic

The word "eclectic" might as well have been invented to describe the music of David Amram. For Mr. Amram, whose "Conversations" was premiered Thursday night by the Atlanta Chamber Players (ACP) at the High Museum of Art, any kind of music is fair game to incorporate into his compositions.

Mr. Amram is himself an accomplished performer in the classical, jazz and ethnic fields, and his "Conversations" reflects all those skills, ranging from blues to a Viennese waltz to a Sephardic idiom.

Each of the three movements of this 20-minute piece is dedicated to and inspired by one of Mr. Amram's children. He builds the jazzy opening "Prologue" around a repeated loud chord signifying his 4-year old son banging away at the piano. The gospel-influenced slow movement revolves around a lullaby his wife has sung to his youngest daughter. And the theme-and variations finale is built upon a favorite melody of his eldest daughter, an Elizabethan-flavored tune he wrote for a production of "Macbeth" in 1957.

Part of the fun of Mr. Amram's music lies in its surprises: his unlikely yet persuasive juxtapositions of seemingly disparate styles. "Conversations," like most of his music, is essentially lyric in orientation - and Mr. Amram (who was present at the premiere) certainly possesses an abundant gift for creating attractive melodies. His new work is unpretentious, ingenious and highly entertaining, and it makes adept use of the instrumental forces of the Atlanta Chamber Players (violin, viola, cello, flute and piano).

One of the most likeable aspects of Mr. Amram's music is its sense of humor; "Conversations" is full of lighthearted wit. Unfortunately, that quality was largely missing in the otherwise impressive rendition by the ACP musicians. Their playing was technically adept and thoroughly conscientious, but overly serious in tone.

No doubt they will relax with subsequent performances; next month the ACP will take "Conversations" on tour, culminating in a performance Feb. 26 at the National Gallery in Washington, D.C.


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