And Now For A Couple of Offbeat Downbeats

What is to be done if the emphasis in concert is almost always on composers dating before World War II

What is to be done if the emphasis in concert is almost always on composers dating before World War II and usually concentrates on the baroque, classical and early romantic eras? The answer is to search for the occasional performance of contemporary works which find their proper milieu in our own twentieth century, instead of evoking the Europe or America of the eighteenth.

This is not to say that classical and romantic works--the staples of any concert repertoire--are not the great creations that everyone automatically considers them. The familiar figures like Bach, Mozart and Beethoven did indeed write music unrivaled for all time. But occasionally one yearns for compositions which not only appeal to our own era, in any number of vague ways, but which have also been conceived in our own era. I remember a symposium on modern music I attended a couple of years ago in which the composers--among them Pierre Boulez and Peter Maxwell-Davies--said that the age of technology, futuristic abstraction and novel problems in thought and culture demands music suited to and born of this very modernism.

Two concerts of contemporary music appear this week amid the mass of baroque and classical works. They afford the opportunity of hearing some very recent compositions which, although probably not destined for the celebrity of Beethoven's Fifth, importantly reflect musical ideas of the present. The Harvard Group for New Music, a dependable source of contemporary works, performs new compositions by Harvard composers Cacioppo, Cardora and Wissmuller, in a free concert on Saturday at Holmes Hall, North House. Masterworks Chorale presents a festival of "Music of Our Time" on Sunday, including works of New England composers Arthur Berger, David Del Tredici and Leon Kirchner. This should be a very interesting recital, especially since Berger and Del Tredici will participate in the performance of their own works. The concert takes place at First and Second Church, Boston, at 8 p.m. Tickets are $6.5 and 4 and information is available at 785-0133 or 275-8813. The festival continues next week with an even more diverse program of modern works.

As I return to the conventional, there are two concerts this week which in their own way are as non-conformist as the contemporary ones. The Boston University School of Music Opera Workshop is staging "La Calisto," an opera in three acts by Francesca Caralli, conducted by Warren George Wilson, "La Calisto" is an Arcadian myth of gods, satyrs, wood nymphs and who knows what else, and has been called "a significant part of the current Baroque opera revival," which makes it curious in itself. Catch the wood nymphs next Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday at the BU Theatre, 269 Huntington Ave., Boston. It is performed in English by School of Music students at 8 p.m. with tickets at $4, 3 and 2.

Among the other concerts at Harvard this week is an Open Sight-reading of Telemann's Suite in A minor for flute and strings. All experienced string players are welcome to the reading on Sunday in Mather Dining Room at 3 p.m. The Winthrop House Music Society presents Music for Three Cellos by Handel, Fattorini and Couperin. The performers are Andy Collins, Greg Colburn and John Relmand. The only curious thing about this concert is that I've been told that it includes cello music "and also blues." In any case, the recital is on Sunday at 4 p.m. in the Winthrop Tonkens Room.

Mercedes Olivera, renowned Uruguayan harpsichordist, performs baroque works for that instrument in a concert tonight; Bach, Scarlatti and Rameau will be featured in the program. Go to Holmes Living Room, North House, for the free performance at 8. If you're still thirsting for more of the baroque and the beyond, Musica Sacra, conducted by Lenora McCroskey, plays works of Josquin, Battishill and others from the dark, dark ages. Also included are Brahms's Songs, Opus 62. The concert takes place Friday evening at Harvard-Epworth Church, 1555 Mass. Ave., at 8:30. There is a $1.50 contribution which might be talked down at 354-0837, where you can also get more information.

It is only a glaring coincidence that I have slighted Eliot House by leaving it until last. Actually, there is an interesting concert of trombone works there on Sunday by Kevin Henry. He plays pieces by Saint-Saens, Dubois and others in the continuing Sunday Evening Concert Series. The performance is at 8 p.m. in the Eliot House Library. Have a good one.