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Comments from ACO's April 2, 2000
"Copland-Sessions Concert

The last concert of ACO's 1999-2000 season celebrated two musical giants of the 20th Century, Aaron Copland and Roger Sessions, and the landmark new music series these two composers jointly presented from 1928-1931. Those concerts introduced many of the then new generation of American composers, such as George Antheil, Virgil Thomson, Paul Bowles, Henry Cowell, Ruth Crawford, Walter Piston, Carlos Chavez, and Roy Harris. The concert included Copland's famously difficult Short Symphony, and Roger Sessions's Symphony No. 3. The program also included the world premiere of a new realization of George Antheil's Ballet Mécanique, a notorious work that was scored for electronic player pianos and percussion, including airplane propellers, sirens and fire bells. In the spirit of the Copland-Sessions concerts, the program also included a new work by a young composer: Jennifer Higdon's Fanfare Ritmico.


Aaron Copland: Short Symphony
Roger Sessions: Symphony No. 3

The historical and retrospective nature of the concert elicited many comments about and comparisons between the music of Sessions and Copland, and the change in listeners' perceptions from the beginning of the 20th century to the present day.

"How fresh and zingy Copland's Short Symphony sounds, 
despite the fact that his idiom and music has been
with us for most of the 20th Century"
"Now that we're in the 21st Century, 
20th Century music is finally being accepted."
"As the twelve-tone system fades from the musical landscape 
as the dominant force in music schools and the concert halls,
a lot of Session's fades, Copland, conversely becomes more popular."
"People accept dissonance more readily today, 
as we're exposed to a wider variety of sounds."
"In general, I think public perception of 20th Century music 
is unfairly and ignorantly pejorative."
"Copland and Sessions have become background music. 
Antheil seems fresher, more vibrant and less radical.
Machine age fitting for a society, assures us its industrial
heritage in the age of smart machines."

George Antheil: Ballet Mécanique

73 years after the notorious premiere of Ballet Mécanique at Carnegie Hall, this controversial piece divides audiences. This performance was billed as a world premiere of a reconstruction of the original Ballet Mécanique that Antheil was never able to realize. Originally, Antheil scored the work for multiple synchronized player pianos and percussion. Unfortunately, the technology of player pianos in the 1920s did not allow for accurate synchronization, and Antheil resorted to live pianists. Using Yamaha Disklaviers (hybrid electronic-acoustic pianos) composer and electronic music specialist Paul Lehrman brought the new realization to life. Here are some audience comments that illustrate the "love/hate" relationship with the Ballet Mécanique:

"The Antheil piece had the most impact, since it confronts 
and explores modernity and technology in a truly avant-garde manner."
"Too long and the siren gave me a headache"
"It was not as loud or radical as I anticipated. 
I suppose for 1925 it was cutting edge, but for 2000,
I expect it to be performed more."
"It was more modern than the Rite of Spring, 
but was by default dated because it took so long to be recognized."
"The first number by Antheil was painful. 
It gave me a headache, earache, and made my blood pressure go up.
During the pauses, the only thing I could think was
'Thank you Jesus for the quiet'"
"I was surprised that the Antheil was boring. 
It was loud all the time and the dependence on a click
track and computer driven instruments left no room for
creative or expressive moments on the part of the conductor,
who ended up being a traffic cop."
"The Antheil piece was worse than I imagined."
"I was surprised by how much presence the player pianos had, 
despite the lack of live players."


Jennifer Higdon: Fanfare Ritmico (New York Premiere. Commissioned by The Women's Philharmonic in cooperation with ACO.)

Jennifer Higdon, a Philadelphia-based composer delivered an up-tempo rhythmic fanfare that received universally positive response from the audience:

"What a dynamic woman! Her piece was superb"
"The Higdon surprised me. She was unknown to me and then 
to find her work so brilliant, lively varied and rich,
after the pale Copland, what a wonderful sense of elation it gave me."
"Higdon's piece was breathtaking-combination of 
'modern' but not 'in your face"
"Higdon was rich and exciting."
"The Higdon premiere was terrific-rhythmic but not overpowering"


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