Parsing Varèse’s “Amériques,” on the LA Phil’s programs in New York

Posted on: April 26, 2018

“Every artistic era has its towering figures,” write Stuart Isacoff in Friday’s (4/20) Wall Street Journal (subscription required). “But many lesser-known talents also made powerful contributions…. A good example is Edgard Victor Achille Charles Varèse (1883-1965), the innovative French-American composer whose ‘Amériques,’ the first work written in his newly adopted country … will be performed [on April 27] at Lincoln Center’s David Geffen Hall by Gustavo Dudamel and the Los Angeles Philharmonic.” That concert will also include works by Esa-Pekka Salonen and Shostakovich. The LA Phil’s April 29 concert at Lincoln Center will feature works by Bernstein and Beethoven. The Varèse score “employs mammoth orchestral forces…. There are parts for every conceivable type of percussion, from xylophone and glockenspiel to sleigh bells … whip, gong, cymbal, and siren…. The siren … became something of a signature device for Varèse…. For Varèse … it was simply a way of utilizing microtones…. The work is unmistakably Varèse, filled with scurrying figures and raucous outcries…. The siren emerges and fades like a mournful wail. Meters shift constantly, and silences become as weighty as the loudest sounds. Then, after 24 minutes, with a final explosion the musical beast expires.”

Posted April 26, 2018