Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Human Aspiration, Fragility, and Triumph in Western Orchestral Culture

"The fascinating all-American program opened with Ives's well-known "Three Places in New England." But the luminous and wondrously strange performance made this cutting-edge score seem new. Mr. Levine was less concerned with evoking the imagery that inspired each movement than with enticing the audience to hear Ives as a major modernist - an American eccentric, yes, but a savvy craftsman and a visionary composer. In the opening piece, "The 'St. Gaudens' in Boston Common," those thick, hazy, string chords shimmered with pungent polytonal dissonance and mystical allure. Ives seemed an American Berg. The string tone was so plush you wanted to wrap yourself in it. The "Putnam's Camp" movement, with its din of brass bands, and "The Housatonic at Stockbridge," with its multi-layered harmonies and haunted evocations of church music in the distance, were also a revelation.

Elliott Carter, who turns 97 in December...is still composing ingenious works. Mr. Levine conducted the New York premiere of "Three Illusions" (2004), short movements (three minutes each) that bustle with invention, instrumental colorings and Mr. Carter's distinctly complex and alluring astringent harmonic language. Something must have gone not quite right in the second piece, for Mr. Levine asked the audience if the orchestra could play it again, and it did, this time getting a big thumb's up from the maestro and a rousing ovation from the audience."

Anthony Tommasini "Levine and the Boston, Still Made for Each Other" New York Times October 10, 2005.


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