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Comments from ACO's November 1, 1998 concert at Carnegie Hall

Gerard SchwarzGuest conductor Gerard Schwarz made his debut with ACO in a program that truly featured "something old, something new, something borrowed, and something blue." The golden oldie (at least by ACO standards) was David Diamond's Symphony No. 2, a World War II-era composition by one of this country's most revered composers. Anthony M. Kelley's jazzy ACO-commissioned The Breaks received its world premiere, making it both "new" and "blue." The Violin Concerto by Pittsburgh-based composer David Stock featured violinist Andrés Cárdenes in his Carnegie Hall solo debut. And listeners pointed out "borrowings" in all three works.

The program provided an abundance of long-melodic lines, sustained string and woodwind ensembles, and colorful passages which seemed to impress the audience:

"One of the best programs I have ever attended"
"a wide range of sound and emotion".
"Great variety! Beautifully put together"
"The orchestra is dreamfully good!!!"
"innovative, creative and a classic sense of tonality will 
help to usher in these pieces as staples of 21st century repertoire."
"I was intrigued by the au courant quality of the entire series."
"We admire the work of the ACO in bringing contemporary orchestral music
to a large public. We enjoy this repertoire, and are frustrated by its
paucity elsewhere in the area."
"The orchestra sounded stunningly good."

But, of course, not everyone agreed:

"I am surprised that there are no new good sounds! Where are the composers??? 
We've heard such music 80 years ago! Mahler is more "new" today...

Anthony M. Kelley: The Breaks (World Premiere - ACO Commission)Anthony Kelley

Anthony M. Kelley's new work is subtitled, "Orchestral Homage to the American Maestros Morton, Armstrong, Ellington, and Gillespie." Commissioned by ACO with funds from the Jerome Foundation and the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs Cultural Challenge, the audience picked-up immediately on the variety of Kelley's musical sources. One listener called Kelley "Mastermixer," another dubbed "The Breaks" a "jazz potpourri":

"Contained familiar yet original flavorings to todays American music."
"Can't Stop 'til You Get Enough"
"I was surprised by the Michael Jackson quote"
"A teasing reminder of the era in which I've grown up"
"Fascinatin' Rhythms"
"sounded Gershwinesque"
"Thanks to Lennie and George too"
"a second 'Rhapsody in Blue'"

But, Kelley's use of jazz and pop material in "The Breaks" proved provocative, meeting with sharply divided audience response:

"Dared to do what many classical composers are afraid to do: 
write music that crosses all the boundaries.
I think this piece is a bridge-builder."
"I'm 88 years old and remember the sources of inspiration for 'The Breaks." 
But, Mr. Kelley, give me a break! You gave bits and pieces that tantalized
and then never developed them to a satisfying conclusion. You flitted from
one mode to another, but on the whole, I like your style."
"About Kelley's piece: well, I like jazz, I like Gershwin and Milhaud, but..."
"A fresh look at big band and pop."
"innovative and fresh"
"most classic: jazzy sounding, very traditional and culturally entrenched."
"accessible melodies with complex orchestration and structures."
"The use of jazz, blues and pop music was like a breath of fresh air. 
For the first time in my life I felt like dancing."

And, that wasn't the only listener who felt like dancing:

"I would love to see a modern ballet based on 'The Breaks.' 
I could almost feel the dancers leaping about--
it will be a shame if nobody picks up on this.
Somehow I feel this is sure to happen with this fabulously alive sound!"

David Stock: Violin ConcertoAndres Cardenes. photo credit: Christian SteinerDavid Stock

The rhythmic opening of the concerto made a strong impact on the audience--for better and for worse:

"A strong and powerful first movement."
"Bartók and Stravinsky go American"
"Repetition in the first movement, 
why did it go on for so long? very puzzling."
"The march at the beginning of David Stock's concerto 
was the biggest surprise in the music I heard."
"I wish he'd edit the first movement in order to be more concise. 
The scoring in the finale should be more kaleidoscopic...
instead of adding instruments as the music builds, the colors should shift."
"post-romantic but original. The first movement was excellent, 
sorry the other two movements do not maintain the same level.
"The Sorrow and Fury of War"
"The balance between orchestra and soloist wasn't always great, 
particularly in the first movement, but it is a gorgeous piece--
reminded me of Heifitz playing Bruch."
"Could easily be film scoring--music for a Hitchcock or 'slasher' film"
"the music displayed an abrasive personality. 
The eternal surges of sound became almost unbearable...
and why not give the violin a better chance to shine as a soloist.
The orchestra dominated throughout."
"I loved Stock's piece--it has a varied, timeless quality."
"The jagged lines and treatment of the motivic material made 
Stock's concerto sound new. I would like to hear the piece again.
It held together very well."

Many were moved by the slow movement:

"a beautiful, lullaby-ish intermezzo"
"The Stock intermezzo is fantastic! 
Palpable impact on the audience--actually forcing us into quietness."
"I found the profligate use of upward sequences in movement 
two of the Stock concerto surprising... pan-diatonicism
and super clean textures made it most neoclassic."

As for the last movement:

"memorable, melodic, dramatic and dancelike"
"Where was the violin cadenza?"

David Diamond: Symphony No. 2

David Diamond is a composer who has "stuck" firmly to his tonal "guns" through decades of turmoil in American music. His Second Symphony impressed many as "a classic:"

David Diamond"superb"
"The light 'breathing' quality of the slow string passages 
make me feel Diamond is a classic."
"soothing, strokes and caresses of strings, flute and oboe"
"Symphony No. 2 touched a private emotional place, unintrusively. 
I think it will be even more appreciated as I grow older."
"Diamond's 'long-line' is probably a classic by now. 
His second movement seemed to go nowhere."
"very much of its place and time--a pleasure to hear."
"brooding and apocalyptic"
"The majesty of Dawn"
"A Symphony of Sumptuous Folds"

Several compared the music to a few notable American icons:

"looks back to Harris, Barber and Copland."
"classic orchestration and harmony... like Copland."

But at least one listener was not impressed:

"I like music from modern composers such as Penderecki, Crumb, Schnittke, Dutilleux... 
and I was surprised how boring a symphony composed in the present century can be."

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