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Wednesday, December 8, 2021

Review: the orchestra offers a new perspective on the history of music

It is a pity for the American composer of the 19th century, who worked in Beethoven’s shadow in search of his own sound, but was overshadowed by another European: Antonín Dvořák, whose New World symphony is performed much more often than anything from the New. The world that preceded it.

Visiting the United States in the 1890s, Dvorak predicted the future of American classical music based on black and indigenous melodies. This came true to some extent in the 20th century, but orchestras tended to ignore the composers of color in favor of whites, men – some of them came to be seen as national heroes, while their lesser-known compatriots relied (and continue to rely on) on passionate champions.

And Europeans continued to pursue concert programs – the product of, as historian Joseph Horowitz argued, a cultural shift in American classical music from an emphasis on composers to performers that, fueled by the growth of radio broadcasts and recordings, calcified the repertoire of our largest musical group. cultural institutions.

I’m making a reduction, but on the whole the truth is that the short-sighted approach to orchestral programming today is Eurocentric, when living composers are rarely given the same honorable place as Beethoven or Mahler – nothing new.

In addition, there are artists such as Leon Botstein, an indispensable advocate of the unfairly ignored, who brought his ensemble The Orchestra Now to Carnegie Hall on Thursday for an evening of works that, despite spanning nearly 150 years of range, felt fresh as a batch. prime minister.

Botstein belongs to a class of conductors and artistic directors, including Horowitz and Gil Rose of the Boston Modern Orchestra Project, Ashley Gordon and Anthony R. Green of the Castle of Our Skins, and many others who bring an endlessly curious and almost archaeological attention to their programming. … They operate on such a small scale that they can hardly reverse the history of American classical music; but every concert, every recording is an important step in a better direction.

On Thursday, Botstein and The Orchestra Now, a talented and playing group of young musicians, took the last of these steps, writing Julia Perry’s Stabat Mater in 1951, at the start of the composer’s short life; Scott Wheeler’s new violin concerto “Birds of America” ​​featuring Gil Shaham; and George Frederick Bristow’s Fourth Symphony Arcadia, 1872.

Perry’s work, an episodic setting of classical Latin text that has inspired composers for centuries, seems to rise from the depths, slowly awakening from the sounds of gravel cellos that eventually give way to the brilliance of a solo violin and the emergence of a vocalist. : here is the mezzo-soprano Briana Hunter, who smoothly and characteristically easily coped with the unexpected turns and dips of her part.

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In the score, as in many American works of the mid-twentieth century, a balance of dissonance and tonality is achieved. Despite its short playing time and modest scale, it is nevertheless dense, with thick textures emerging from its full-string ensemble and an impressive ambivalence in the final piece of instrumental darkness and vocal ecstasy.

Wheeler’s cute concert, which premiered last weekend at the Fischer Center in Bard College, has elements of timelessness – its lyricism is similar to the lyricism of Barber and Korngold’s famous violin concertos – but also postmodernism with classic snippets such as The Seasons. Vivaldi. … “

Despite the avian title, Wheeler does not imitate bird singing like the famous Messiaen, but he draws inspiration from the invocations of individual voices, with short, repeating phrases attached to certain instruments, such as the whistle emanating from a piccolo and an opening flute. piece.

Shaham, one of our sunniest violinists, entered suitably with a melodic melody on his highest string, and it all brought a lot of warmth. But he was also breathtakingly virtuoso in the subtle Sarasata-like passages of lyrical double-stops and left-hand pizzicato. In the finale, he got involved in the musical Simon Says, tapped on the back of his instrument and ordered the second violins to do the same, then tuned in to the violas pounding and the high-pitched birdcries of the first violins. In the end, the wind merged into one, and a surprisingly noisy aviary appeared in the aviary.

Without intermission, Botstein continued Bristow’s rich symphony, one of those works about which you hear more than you actually hear. But when he was featured in the midst of the 19th century debate over the direction of American classical music, as documented with an analysis of Arcadia in musicologist Douglas Sheidl’s 2015 revelatory book Orchestrating the Nation, he enjoyed rare re-programming success.

And on Thursday you might have heard why. With the grandeur of late romanticism and American inspiration, Arcadian, played by Carnegie in the new edition of Kyle Gunn, is an imaginary journey westward in a changing musical landscape; a serene pause that conjures up entertainment together with a quote from Tallis’ Tonight Anthem; an alarmingly naive and chauvinistic “Indian war dance” more like a macabre European dance; and a festive celebration upon arrival.

As a historical document, it is the embodiment of the sins of the Revealed Destiny, ripe for questioning. But as music, Bristow’s score stands next to European romanticism, clearly aiming at a new, clearer path. He was not alone in this endeavor. There was a time when concert halls in New York were filled with 19th century American symphonies. It’s time to do it again.

Orchestra now

Performed Thursday at Carnegie Hall, Manhattan.

World Nation News Deskhttps://www.worldnationnews.com
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