Music and Vision homepage



Monk and Mahler

LAWRENCE BUDMEN reviews Tilson Thomas performances in Miami


One of Michael Tilson Thomas's goals when he formed the New World Symphony in Miami fifteen years ago was to explore new types of musical composition and interaction. The première of Meredith Monk's first orchestral work Possible Sky (on 4 April 2003 at Miami Beach's Lincoln Theater) was a vital attempt at reinventing classical composition. Like all of Ms Monk's work, this score crosses musical genres and ethnic influences -- world music, avant garde classicism, native American indian music, and trance like Hindu mysticism. While there were echoes of Copland, Gershwin, Ellington, and John Adams, Monk synthesizes these diverse influences into a personal voice.

Although the work seemed episodic at first hearing, Ms Monk's musical effervescence and instrumental inventiveness were infectious. She indicated that the score is a prayer for peace and healing. As a first effort and a work in progress, Possible Sky was moving and impressive. Tilson Thomas reveled in the score's multi-layered instrumental coloration. A dazzling trumpet solo by Billy Hunter was a highlight of the brilliant orchestral performance.

Michael Tilson Thomas
Michael Tilson Thomas

A week earlier (29 March 2003) Tilson Thomas offered a performance of Mahler's Symphony No 4 that brought a rare musical experience -- a moment of artistic revelation. The conductor brought a deep understanding of Mahler's unique musical voice and an almost transcendent eloquence to the performance. Every phrase was part of a long, rounded musical arc. The absolute clarity of the orchestral texture allowed for the sometimes jarring harmonies and raucous percussion effects to be highlighted. The Poco adagio was poignant and deeply moving with luminous string playing. Rarely has the agony and the ecstasy of this music been so powerfully delineated. There was a rapt, almost religious intensity in this performance.

Ying Huang. Photo © Nana Watanabe
Ying Huang. Photo © Nana Watanabe

In the concluding 'Wunderhorn' song, Ying Huang sang with musicality and charm in a soaring lyric soprano voice. The entire performance made one hear thrice familiar music as if for the first time -- a true musical voyage of discovery. The concert also featured a lean, spiky performance of Hindemith's Concert Music for Strings and Brass -- a worthy revival of an important score. Tilson Thomas concluded his musical residency (on 11 April) with a highly dramatic performance of Sibelius's Symphony No 2 in D that emphasized the composer's debt to Mahler.

Copyright © 28 April 2003 Lawrence Budmen, Miami Beach, USA






 << M&V home       Ensemble home        Paul Ben-Haim >>