There’s been some music in town lately. Last weekend the orchestra here tackled Varèse’s Amériques, which you really need to have your local orchestra do rather than an avant ensemble because it requires 120 to 140 instruments depending on the version, including seven french horns, eight cellos, and a lion. I’ve never heard it, thinking until a few months ago that Antheil had the idea to use sirens first (who else would have done it?) I’ve heard so much that imitates it that it sounds like an old favorite warhorse, like the missing warhorse; I will listen to it many more times.
Some virtuoso girls doing Bartók at the Curtis Institute: first Sang Hyun Mary Yong’s over the top rendering of the Concerto for Viola and Orchestra on Monday then Elena Urioste ripping up the Sonata for Violin and Piano this evening. Urioste conveys a broad range of emotions through her mastery of pieces, following up the Sonata with V. Williams’ light, dreamy Lark Ascending, bringing her edge to Beethoven and Janáček, then putting a rose in her hair and (being Mexican-Basque) deconstructing the Carmen Fantasie. An unforgettable graduation recital and I look forward to collecting her recordings.
I bought a bunch of Bartók discs years back and I never really worked them into a listening routine that fit into a particular mood or ritual. I mean, I seem to like every other ‘difficult’ composer. I find his chamber works, or works arranged for chamber, to be more initially engaging because it is easier to appreciate his melodic structure rather than with the combination of melodies in many of his symphonies, which I’m nonetheless inspired to dust off now. Yong's Concerto was exciting, but Urioste enabled me to emotionally connect to Bartók for the first time in a while.
+ on Monday my favorite chamber work, Schoenberg’s Transfigured Night. Written in the throes of a complex love affair, it combines Romantic passion with the forms and dramatic structure of modernity. I have gone through long stretches when I’ve gone to bed to it nightly, and I felt as if my mind halfway between wakefulness and sleep was being presented a public meeting.