and mortality in Troy: composer Gordon Beeferman.
Albany Symphony Orchestra
Savings Bank Music Hall, March 14
Casual Night at the Symphony may have dressed down in the
sartorial sense, but the music proved to be anything but casual:
a quartet of richly textured works by American composers,
two of whom were there to introduce their pieces.
Itís the refreshing kind of programming needed to give life
to current music. None of the pieces is of a type likely to
reveal all of its mysteries in a single hearing: The music
needs further exposure through radio and recordings. Classical-music
radio is a wasteland of greatest hits, and the recording companies,
with a few exceptions, wonít touch this stuff. Michael Torkeís
An American Abroad, which received its U.S. premiere
on the program, was recorded immediately after its premiere
last year with the Royal Scottish National Orchestra, and
copies of the Naxos CD were sold in the lobby during intermission.
Anyone who bought and listened to the recording will find
it an excellent enhancement to the experience of witnessing
the work. Torkeís music is fun and accessible without being
superficial, and this 20-minute piece conjures a range of
emotions without settling for the obvious. Any musical depiction
of an American abroad goes up against the citadel of Gershwinís
An American in Paris, but Torke took a path away from
the bouncy musical stylings of the earlier work and concentrated
instead on summoning those emotions through orchestral texture
and bursts of lyricism.
If you want to hear a recording of Paul Crestonís Violin
Concerto No. 2, the work that followed, youíre out of
luck. The prolific Creston is not-too-well recorded, and itís
a shameóthis is a piece that, with a little familiarity, might
ease toward the core of the repertory. Certainly itís a thrilling
showpiece for the violinist, as Gregory Fulkerson demonstrated.
The improvisatory feel of the opening movement gives way to
wonderful melody in the andante, kept nervous by the use of
three-against-two figurations. The concluding presto offered
a playful chase to a virtuosic end.
Commissioned for the Albany Symphony and world-premiered was
Gordon Beefermanís brief Morbidity and Mortality Report,
a four-movement work depicting aggression, disaster and loss.
He has a charming wit (reflected in the title and scope of
the work), and the piece itself demonstrates an impressive
unity by weaving textural elements from one movement to the
next. But itís not a terribly pleasant piece, almost arrogant
in its plangent nature. Is this bad? I donít think so. Coming
as it did as an unsettling interlude between music by Creston
and Barber, it was an itchy change of pace, and I wish I could
hear it again.
Samuel Barberís Symphony No. 1 was as mainstream repertory
as this program went, and it provided a tuneful, sweeping
finish. Itís a one-movement, multi-sectioned work with a unifying
theme (characterized by a rising octave) that transforms throughout
the symphonyís tempo shifts; like the other works on this
program, it was as much about orchestral texture as anything
else, and Miller was in fine control of a very skillful orchestra.
At times the brass threatened to overwhelm the string section,
but thatís my only complaint in an otherwise rare and enjoyable