Review: Philadelphia Orchestra world premiere of Melody Eötvös’s “When It Hits the Ocean Below”

Posted on: May 25, 2022

“It’s called iceberg calving. The term describes a large chunk of ice shearing from the edge of a glacier,” writes Peter Dobrin in Friday’s (5/20) Philadelphia Inquirer. “Thursday night [at] Verizon Hall, … Melody Eötvös’ 10-minute work, When It Hits the Ocean Below, commissioned by the Philadelphia Orchestra and receiving its world premiere, … rolled out in impressive masses of sound. Paired with perhaps music’s best-loved river portrait, Smetana’s ‘The Moldau’ from Má vlast, Eötvös’s score held the harsh, unyielding tension of water in solid form in contrast to the soft, life-giving ribbons of the Czech river…. The [organ] is a presence in Eötvös’ score …. The composer … intended to signal the slow-motion aspect of calving with the extremely quiet note at the end of the third movement. As she correctly writes in the score, it’s a note so low that you feel it more than you hear it as realized on Verizon Hall’s Fred J. Cooper Memorial Organ, played here by Monica Szausz Berney…. Eötvös and the orchestra have seized on an important message with an effective vehicle at just the right moment. Conductor Xian Zhang was a commanding presence in the work, as she was in ‘The Moldau.’ ”