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Thursday, March 22, 2012

Festival Preview: American Mavericks

The modern music festival comes to Carnegie Hall.
Redshirts: Michael Tilson Thomas (left) with composer Lou Harrison.
Photo © San Francisco Symphony Orchestra.
John Cage. Charles Ives. John Adams. Steve Reich. Meredith Monk.

These are just a few of the composers featured at American Mavericks, next week's week-long festival at Carnegie Hall celebrating the bold music of American composers who continue to push the envelope in the 20th century and beyond. The program seeks to challenge the traditional conservatism of Carnegie audiences by presenting these modern composers next to each other instead of trying to contrast them with better known music by Brahms or Tchaikovsky.

The week-long concert series is curated by Michael Tilson Thomas, music director of the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra. "M.T.T.", (as he is known) has assembled an exciting series that should make the staid plaster arches of the Stern Auditorium echo with exciting new sounds. 

The sound moves upstairs on Tuesday, with the first of two concerts by the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra. Jessye Norman joins the orchestra to sing works from the Cage Song Books. But the real plum here is the New York premiere of John Adams' Absolute Jest, a kind of concerto for string quartet and orchestra.

Wednesday night features special guest Emanuel Ax, playing Morton Feldman's Piano and Orchestra. Also featured: Sun-Treader by the underrated composer Carl Ruggles, and A Concord Symphony by American pioneer Charles Ives. 

The festival ends with two concerts at Zankel Hall, featuring members of the SFSO. Thursday night features the fantastical music of Harry Partch, whose kit-bashing approach to composition resulted in the creation of some truly unique instruments. The concert also features music by David Del Tredici, the New York premier of Mason Bates' Mass Transmission, and the Concerto for Organ with Percssion Orchestra by Lou Harrison. 

Friday night features Music for Pieces of Wood by Steve Reich and the New York premiere of Ms. Monk's Realm Variations. The concert (and the festival) ends with Echoi by Lukas Foss and Jacob's Room a monodrama by Morton Subotnick.
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Critical Thinking in the Cheap Seats

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Since 2007, Superconductor has grown from an occasional concert or CD review to a near-daily publication covering classical music, opera and the arts in and around NYC, with excursions to Boston, Philadelphia, and upstate NY. I am a freelance writer living and working in Brooklyn NY. And no, I'm not a conductor.