Concert Review: California Symphony premieres Bates’s “Silicon Blues”

Posted on: May 4, 2010

In Monday’s (5/3) San Jose Mercury News (California), Richard Scheinin writes, “Sunday’s ambitious and rewarding concert by the California Symphony featured brand new music by a 33-year-old composer with a skyrocketing national reputation—and a parallel career as a DJ. It also featured a 14-year-old pianist with startling virtuoso skills. … Act 1 revolved around Oakland-based [Mason] Bates, recently appointed as a composer-in-residence with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. With ‘Silicon Blues,’ he wraps up his three-year residency with the California Symphony, where his past works have merged computer-generated sounds into the orchestral scores. … He has included a typewriter in the percussion section and uses a prepared piano to generate the gentle plinks and thuds of his silicon world. It’s a modest work, about 12 minutes long, a charmer moving seamlessly through three parts. … Sunday’s Act 2 was given over to [Sarina] Zhang, whose performance of Liszt’s Piano Concerto No. 1 was rather astonishing: those bracing chords, flying octaves, steady trills and glittering passagework, flouncy as the red ribbons in her hair. … After intermission, she returned — this time, with her cello, as the soloist for Tchaikovsky’s ‘Pezzo Capriccioso’ for Cello and Orchestra.”

Posted May 4, 2010