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
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
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
MICHAEL TILSON THOMAS
NEW WORLD SYMPHONY