Review American Composers Orchestra

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Review American Composers Orchestra

Post by lennygoran » Thu Nov 09, 2017 7:32 am

A lot of names I never heard of and never even heard of the American Composers Orchestra. The opera Gilgamesh is new to me also-Prestini's opera Madame White Snake is not new to me because I've seen it offered up in Boston but I've never gone to see it. Regards, Len

Review: Celebrating 40 Years of Championing American Composers


In a 1977 talk, Aaron Copland complained that concerts by America’s orchestras were still frustratingly dominated by the “great works of the past.” No American composer was suggesting that these great old works should not be played, Copland explained. “All we want to do is get in on it!” he said.

Copland addressed those comments that year to an audience at Alice Tully Hall before the inaugural concert of the American Composers Orchestra. On Tuesday night at Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Frederick P. Rose Hall, a recording of Copland’s remarks was played before the American Composer Orchestra’s 40th Birthday Concert. The gist of his argument, alas, still applies today. The programs of American orchestras have remained overwhelmingly tilted toward works of the past, mostly the distant past.

Yes, much has changed for the better. In a program note, the directors of the American Composers Orchestra (A.C.O.) take pride that this essential ensemble has helped define “what it means to be American in 2017,” embracing gender, ethnic, national and stylistic diversity. Tuesday’s varied program offered exhilarating evidence.

It began with a feisty, jazzy piece by Francis Thorne, “Fanfare, Fugue and Funk” (1972). Mr. Thorne, the primary founder of the A.C.O., died in March at 94. His piece was conducted by Dennis Russell Davies, another founder of the ensemble. Mr. Davies also ended the evening by leading Duke Ellington’s “Black, Brown and Beige,” one of the American master’s still-overlooked concert works.

Next year’s 100th birthday of Leonard Bernstein, who died in 1990, was acknowledged with a performance of his Clarinet Sonata (1941-42), the composer’s first published work, which he wrote in his early 20s. It was performed in a 1994 orchestration by Sid Ramin, scored for clarinet, strings and percussion. The excellent clarinetist Derek Bermel brought warm colorings and moody reflectiveness to the solo part, while subtly drawing out all the jazzy touches.

There were two recent works by younger women: Paola Prestini and Elizabeth Ogonek, conducted by George Manahan, the orchestra’s dynamic music director. From her opera “Gilgamesh,” Ms. Prestini drew “Prelude and Aria,” which begins with heaving and ominous intensity and evolves into a plaintive vocal monologue, sung meltingly by the countertenor Jakub Jozef Orlinski. I had trouble following the overall structure in Ms. Ogonek’s “Sleep and Unremembrance.” Moment to moment, however, the piece was alive with piercing sonorities and fraught with episodes that erupted in fits and starts, brought out vividly by Mr. Manahan.

Nodding to Lincoln Center’s American Songbook project, Mr. Manahan led the radiant, stylish soprano Mikaela Bennett and the orchestra in a selection of songs by Jerome Kern, Harold Arlen and George Gershwin.

Ideally, we would have reached the point at which an orchestra dedicated to American composers was no longer needed. But we haven’t. Still, A.C.O. concerts, rather than feeling like exercises in special pleading, typically come across as celebrations, Tuesday’s included.

Speaking to the audience, Mr. Davies singled out seven players from the A.C.O. who took part in the ensemble’s inaugural 1977 concert, longtime warriors in the fight for American music, which goes on.

The next American Composers Orchestra concert is on Dec. 8 at Zankel Hall, Manhattan; 212-247-7800, ... ction&_r=0

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Re: Review American Composers Orchestra

Post by Lance » Fri Nov 10, 2017 10:55 pm

Actually, I do listen to some newer American music. But I cannot help it if my inner self is drawn to music from previous periods, predominantly from the Baroque thru to, especially the Romantic period. Yes, there are the usual composers we are all accustomed to: Bach, Beethoven, Brahms, Chopin, Schubert and myriad others from those periods.

Still there is much "new" music from all those periods from people such as Hummel, Josef Rheinberger, and truly, countless others, that is rarely performed or even recorded. If your ears and heart are bent to a particular kind of music, that's what you go with because it is like a magnet to your musical soul. I suppose in 200 years, the music composed today "may" have the popularity of Mozart, Beethoven or countless others. Do I really believe that? Probably not, because music appeals due to melody, rhythm, spiritual beauty, and many other reasons. But some of it surely will be heard from our own time.

If you are a record collector whose collection is primarily music from the Baroque through the Romantic period on up to the time of Rachmaninoff and others of that time frame, are you going to be adding substantially to your collection late 20th- and 21st century music for your library?

On the other hand, we do owe it to ourselves and to these present-day composers to give them a chance and listen to their music with genuine interest. Will I choose to hear Stockhausen over Saint-Saens? Probably not ... but that's me, just me.

Aaron Copland was right on with his comments listed in Lenny's opening post, and still recently played of what Copland stated. They just want to be "a part of it."
Lance G. Hill

When she started to play, Mr. Steinway came down and personally
rubbed his name off the piano. [Speaking about pianist &*$#@+#]


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Re: Review American Composers Orchestra

Post by John F » Sat Nov 11, 2017 7:25 am

Lance wrote:If you are a record collector whose collection is primarily music from the Baroque through the Romantic period on up to the time of Rachmaninoff and others of that time frame, are you going to be adding substantially to your collection late 20th- and 21st century music for your library?
Of course, and so would most music lovers I know. Would you really ignore Stravinsky and the other modern masters? As for the 21st century, very little of this music has been recorded, but there are composers still alive and working whose new music I look forward to, such as Saariaho. Yet I love music of the 19th and earlier centuries as much as anyone does.
John Francis

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