Visionary American composer Francis Thorne

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lennygoran
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Visionary American composer Francis Thorne

Post by lennygoran » Mon Mar 27, 2017 3:29 am

I never heard of this guy-Tommasini mentions neo-classical elements and a Reich “Tehillim,” he calls a seminal 1981 work--all new to me. Regards, Len

Review: An American Composers Orchestra Concert Pays a Bracing Tribute

By ANTHONY TOMMASINI MARCH 26, 2017


In an ideal musical world there would be no need for an orchestra dedicated to performing new and recent works by American composers. That mission would be crucial to every American orchestra.

But we don’t live in an ideal musical world. The repertory of most major American ensembles has long been dominated by European masterworks. Back in the 1970s, the visionary American composer Francis Thorne decided to do something about this imbalance. He spearheaded the creation of the American Composers Orchestra, singularly focused on commissioning, championing and performing contemporary American composers. That essential ensemble, now in its 40th season, gave a concert on Friday at Zankel Hall, a typically bracing program with three premieres and Steve Reich’s “Tehillim,” a seminal 1981 work for four female singers and orchestra.

Sadly, Mr. Thorne died on March 7 at 94. Friday’s concert was dedicated to his memory, and several participants, including Edward Yim, the orchestra’s new president, spoke in tribute to him. Officially, Mr. Thorne was one of a small group of musicians who founded this orchestra. But in a statement, the conductor Dennis Russell Davies wrote that, while he is gratified to be credited as a co-founder, in all honesty, it was “all Franny.”

Championing American composers was a driving mission for Mr. Thorne, and his ensemble had an important function. Still, he was a musical adventurer (and gifted jazz pianist) who believed that concerts of contemporary American music could be exciting and popular. He would have been pleased that Friday’s American Composers concert, conducted by George Manahan, was sold out.

Mr. Thorne’s own works reflected his wide musical interests, like his Piano Concerto No. 3 (1989), which merges Neo-Classical and modernist elements with hints of jazz. From the start his orchestra has fostered composers of all stylistic bents and ages. Friday’s program certainly met those goals, offering four diverse works by composers ranging in age from David Hertzberg, 27, to Mr. Reich, whose 80th birthday is being celebrated at Carnegie Hall and beyond this season.

Speaking with Mr. Yim onstage before the premiere of his alluring Chamber Symphony, Mr. Hertzberg said that this single-movement work presents a series of contrasting ideas, almost as if different composers were talking to one another across vistas. The piece begins with seemingly distinct statements, with pauses in between: a mini-episode of pastoral-like sonorities with an ominous cello line lurking below; sustained, bustling high harmonies with squiggly flights from the piano; an episode of staggered drum bursts; a haze of dense, piercingly dissonant chords; and more. Over time the music tries to find commonalities among the contrasts, building to an ecstatic, slightly crazed culmination that sounded like modern-day Messiaen.

The composer Paola Prestini has collaborated often on multimedia works, including this new one, “The Hotel That Time Forgot.” The piece was inspired when she read about the Palmyra Hotel, which has been open since 1874 in a Lebanese city near the border with Syria. A mysterious 10-minute video by the artist Mami Kosemura, created in a townhouse salon, is meant to represent a room in the Palmyra. Ms. Prestini’s music conveys the surreal visuals through gently repetitive figures, disparately overlapping lines and swooshing, sliding harmonies.

Trevor Weston, the composer of the third presented premiere, told the audience that throughout his childhood in New York he was enthralled by the stories of flying fish told by his relatives from Barbados. “Flying Fish,” his 15-minute work, honors the African roots of Bajan (Barbadian) culture, he explained. With oscillating riffs, perky percussion and episodes of hurtling energy, the music certainly suggested wondrous aquatic feats. I was especially affected, though, by an extended, slower, quizzical episode with pensive strings and plaintive chords.

In the 30-minute “Tehillim,” Mr. Reich sets four Hebrew psalms to long strands of intermingling vocal lines, which unfold over percolating, continuously inventive music for strings, winds, two organs and varied percussion. It received a transfixing performance on this bittersweet night for the American Composers Orchestra.

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/03/26/arts ... views&_r=0

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