Doug Lofstrom

Like William Russo, his boss in the music department at Columbia College, Doug Lofstrom straddles too many categories to be easily classified: he plays the contrabass but has doubled on bamboo flute and percussion; he’s composed a clutch of string quartets and concertos within the confines of classical music, but as a performer he’s ventured into free jazz (most notably on the self-released CD Spontaneous Composition, with reedist Rich Corpolongo and drummer Paul Wertico). He’s written commissions for vocalists, a didgeridoo virtuoso, and a dance troupe, and, of course, he also conducts. An aesthetic risk taker, Lofstrom cuts and pastes from a wide range of idioms in his compositions. Sometimes it seems that his drive to please an audience produces derivative, New Agey stuff, but most of his work is confident and well crafted, echoing Stravinsky and other masters. Of the three Lofstrom pieces that make up Friday’s program, the centerpiece is the four-part Songs of Tagore, premiering at this concert. For its lyrics he’s arranged excerpts from the sensuous, mystical poems of the great early-20th-century Indian writer Rabindranath Tagore, translated from Bengali into English. The piece will be performed by soprano Laura Amend and pianist Sebastian Huydts; the selection I’ve heard reminds me of the love songs of Barber and Rorem, where the music closely follows the contours and emotional shadings of the words. Hawk!, a work for solo violin from 1985, sounds like a Bach partita rearranged by Bartok; it will be performed by violinist Katherine Hughes. The last piece, Jabberwocky Variations, is a playful, programmatic setting of the Lewis Carroll poem; Amend will read the text, and the music will be performed by an ensemble of Columbia teachers and students under Lofstrom’s direction, with a percussionist playing the Jabberwock. Friday, March 2, 8 PM, Concert Hall, Columbia College, 1014 S. Michigan; 312-344-6324.