Review: San Francisco Symphony’s American Mavericks program

Posted on: March 16, 2012

In Friday’s (3/16) Los Angeles Times, Mark Swed writes about the San Francisco Symphony’s March 14 program featuring works by John Cage, Lukas Foss, Henry Cowell, and Carl Ruggles during its two-week American Mavericks Festival at Davies Symphony Hall. “The remarkable thing about it is that—in no small part due to Tilson Thomas’ powers of persuasion that get unlikely stars to perform unlikely music—outlier composers don’t seem quite so mavericky anymore.” In John Cage’s “anarchy-centric” Song Books, “The singers were Joan La Barbara, Meredith Monk and Jessye Norman. Yes, that Jessye Norman, the regal opera star. She was magnificent. They all were…. Cage does not call for a stage director…. One table on the stage was for card games, to which Norman eagerly joined in, and a chess set. Another held a typewriter and blender, with which Tilson Thomas made a smoothie.…The stage felt cramped (more of the hall’s space might have been used), and the electronics were tame (the blender and card playing would have benefited from sonic oomph). But the music making was sublime.” In Lukas Foss’s Phorion, Henry Cowell’s Piano Concerto, and Carl Ruggles’s Sun-treader, Swed writes, the orchestra “showed the same commitment and understanding that orchestral players normally give Beethoven and Mahler. Tilson Thomas was in his element. The audience was exuberant. It was a great evening to be an American.”

Posted March 16, 2012