"...in the Berio: unflappably fluent, sensibly shading in their dynamics, spellbindingly confident in negotiating the composer's rasping dissonances."
The middle concert in the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra's contributions to this year's Metropolis New Music Festival featured a hefty dose of American creativity.
Conductor Robert Spano from the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra presented two works written for his orchestra, both three-movement constructs depicting aspects of the Georgian capital: its graffiti, CBD, parks and streams, and its main thoroughfare, Peachtree Street. Not exactly new, Copland's Music for a Great City sprang from the soundtrack to a 1961 film, Something Wild, the composer assembling a representative suite from his original material.
Copland paints a vivid enough set of images wedded to the film's action, treating motives rather than melodies and notable for a segment involving wind and percussion alone. Michael Kurth's Everything Lasts Forever takes its impetus from street art, at its most arresting in a celesta-rich middle movement, the work's final segment optimistic, rhythmically brisk, a celebratory paean to Atlanta. Jennifer Higdon's City Scape employs more acerbic language but her path is similar, particularly its Brittenesque orchestral-showcase finale. It also boasts the most prolix pastorale I've ever experienced.
Sydney's The Song Company interleaved this Americana with Jannequin's mid-Renaissance Les cris de Paris, Gibbon's Jacobean-era The Cryes of London, and was responsible for the night's real new music: Berio's 40-year-old update Cries of London. The group, expanded to eight voices under new director Antony Pitts, gave character-rich interpretations of all three a cappella works but excelled in the Berio: unflappably fluent, sensibly shading in their dynamics, spellbindingly confident in negotiating the composer's rasping dissonances.
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