Review: Philadelphia Orchestra’s virtual U.S. premiere of Bates’s “Undistant”

Posted on: June 11, 2021

“If you’re all Zoomed-out, stressed out, and weary of making contact with the outside world through an electronic device, you might draw some hope from Undistant, being given its U.S. premiere this week by the Philadelphia Orchestra,” writes Peter Dobrin in Thursday’s (6/10) Philadelphia Inquirer. “The 7 1/2-minute piece by California composer Mason Bates sparkles with the same kind of wonder as John Williams winking at the cosmos…Ironically, it’s only through your laptop (or equivalent device) that you can experience the work, the centerpiece of the orchestra’s Digital Stage concert debuting Thursday. Laptop here is not just a listening tool, but also an instrument in the creative process … ‘played’ in this performance by percussionist Tom Blanchard…. What’s great about the musical language Bates uses is how emotionally direct it is. It plays a bit with the first three notes of Beethoven’s ‘Ode to Joy.’ … My own thoughts keep returning to the stars. And fairy dust. There’s something celestial in the sweeping gestures of the piano, piccolo, and glockenspiel near the opening…. The listener is let off in a place of contentment.” The program also includes the Overture to Mozart’s The Magic Flute and Beethoven’s Symphony No. 2.