REVIEW: At SummerFest, virtuosic Flux Quartet successfully premieres engaging works by Ichiyanagi and Steiger

San Diego Union-Tribune
Christian Hertzog
August 12, 2018

La Jolla Music Society’s SummerFest may be associated with Beethoven, Brahms and Mozart, but under the curation of Cho-Liang “Jimmy” Lin, it’s also been a showcase for some of our best living composers.

On Thursday and Friday evenings in Conrad Prebys Concert Hall, the Flux Quartet premiered two intriguing string quartets by Toshi Ichiyanagi and UC San Diego professor Rand Steiger.

Ichiyanagi was well known in American contemporary music circles in the 1960s as John Cage’s foremost Japanese disciple. But in the ’70s, he returned to traditionally notated music and in due time incorporated literal repetition into his music — a cardinal sin for Modernism. Perhaps not coincidentally, his music received fewer performances in the United States.

Commissioned for SummerFest, his String Quartet No. 5 made its world premiere Friday evening — performed by the Flux Quartet and making a guest appearance in a concert with ultra-conservative compositions by Dvorak and Max Bruch. It’s a substantial work: three movements in roughly 18 minutes.