Chicago Symphony Orchestra
Following the precise baton sweeps of maestro Michael Tilson Thomas, the San Francisco Symphony crashes through selections from its American Mavericks Festival, which showcases provocative pieces by iconoclastic composers. The evening opens with Henry Cowell's Synchrony, originally written to accompany a dance by famed choreographer Martha Graham. The composition anchors itself to contemplative trumpet solos intertwined with wistful piccolo before giving way to the discordant bombast of timpani, cymbals, and gong. Absolute Jest, composed by living legend John Adams, receives its Chicago premiere, combining the typhoon of a full symphony with the nimble unity of the St. Lawrence String Quartet. Like a DJ wearing a powdered wig, the piece splices together scherzos from Beethoven's late string quartets, building a new composition out of fragments from the master's work. Finally Charles Ives's Concord Symphony—orchestrated by Henry Brant—commemorates the New England transcendentalists, with each movement creating a tonal portrait of a different thinker's philosophy. The ominous swell of bassoon and violin in the first movement echoes Emerson's revelation of man knocking at destiny's door, and the majestic woodwinds and flute in the fifth movement's opening reflect nature, which had a heavy impact on Thoreau (himself a flutist).
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