Concert Review: Alabama and New Jersey symphonies at Spring for Music

Posted on: May 14, 2012

In Friday’s (5/11) New York Times, Anthony Tommasini reviews two of the six orchestras that appeared at Carnegie Hall last week: “In essence, the Spring for Music festival at Carnegie Hall is a ‘contest in programming,’ as Elliott Forrest from WQXR radio put it on Wednesday night in a brief onstage interview with Jacques Lacombe, the music director of the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra. This venture, now in its second year, has other goals: for example, making Carnegie Hall debuts possible for regional orchestras like the Alabama Symphony, which played on Thursday night. But encouraging ensembles to think creatively about programming is the defining mission, well met by these two orchestras …” The New Jersey Symphony “offered Busoni’s visionary 1904 Piano Concerto in C, a gargantuan work of more than 70 minutes with a mystical finale that includes a male chorus singing a German text in praise of Allah. For this performance the virtuoso pianist Marc-André Hamelin vanquished the staggering difficulties of the solo part with cool assurance and consummate musicianship. But before the Busoni, Mr. Lacombe performed works by Varèse and Kurt Weill.… The British conductor Justin Brown, who is busy on the international scene, is finishing his sixth and final season as music director of the Alabama Symphony, based in Birmingham. He has won over audiences by combining repertory works with new and recent scores.… There were New York premieres of two commissioned works. In ‘Astrolatry’ the Israeli-born Avner Dorman evokes ancient people worshiping the stars.… It is lucid and suspenseful, with shimmering, pungent chords and fidgety rhythmic writing. Paul Lansky, a pioneering composer of computer music, was persuaded by Mr. Brown to write his first symphonic score for the Alabama Symphony: ‘Shapeshifters,’ a 27-minute concerto for two pianos and orchestra.… Mr. Brown and his players gave a lean, fleet and infectious account of Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony. Mr. Brown will stay on in a laureate position while the orchestra searches for a music director. That directorship now looks like a good opportunity.”

Posted May 14, 2012