Review: Portland Symphony world premiere of Holcomb’s “No Thing Lives to Itself”

Posted on: January 23, 2020

“Eckart Preu seems less interested in finding unifying themes than in presenting the greatest variety possible in a two-hour concert, but his programs have been useful reminders that this can be an equally satisfying approach,” writes Allan Kozinn in Monday’s (1/20) Press Herald (Portland, ME). “When Preu conducted the Portland Symphony Orchestra at Merrill Auditorium on Sunday, he presented … the world premiere of Robin Holcomb’s ‘No Thing Lives to Itself,’ the Saint-Saëns Piano Concerto No. 2 in G minor (Op. 22), and Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 2 (‘Little Russian,’ Op. 17). Holcomb’s work is inspired by Rachel Carson, whose books—most notably, ‘Silent Spring’ (1953)—warned that our polluting ways were destined to destroy Earth’s ecology…. Holcomb’s piece, commissioned for the PSO by the League of American Orchestras as part of its Women Composers Readings and Commissions program (underwritten by the Virginia B. Toulmin Foundation), [is] a 13-minute work so episodic as to seem diffuse at times, with lovely neo-Romantic scoring and sweeping, lyrical themes giving way to more modernist touches…. Preu devoted the second half to a superbly balanced, solidly played performance of the Tchaikovsky symphony, with excellent solo work by principal hornist Lauren Winter.”