NEW WORLD SYMPHONY
MARIN ALSOP/ COLIN CURRIE (4-15-06)
ALSOP LED THE NEW WORLD TO NEW HEIGHTS
By Lawrence Budmen
Marin Alsop is one of the most exciting conductors on the podium today. On Saturday her superb technique and keen musical intelligence galvanized the New World Symphony to one of its most exciting performances of the season.
Alsop has steadfastly championed the music of Christopher Rouse, who possesses an eclectic creative voice that defies easy categorization. His passions include Wagner’s Ring cycle and Disney World. Both seem to infuse Der Gerettete Alberich (Alberich Saved), a tour de force for percussion and orchestra.
Rouse imagines the eventual fate of the evil dwarf Alberich, the only character seemingly alive at the apocalyptic conclusion of Wagner’s musico-dramatic extravaganza. The composer envisions Alberich as a drummer in a 1970’s punk rock club. Besides directly quoting the final pages of Wagner’s Gotterdamerung, Rouse’s piece suggests dance music from West Side Story. While this inventive work is great entertainment, it lacks the depth and melodic richness of Rouse’s best scores (i.e. the Flute Concerto and the orchestral portrait Rapture).
Quickly moving between the trap set, snare drum, marimba, and Jamaican steel drum spread across the Lincoln Theater stage, British percussionist Colin Currie was a bold force of nature. Currie’s dazzling feats of rhythm, speed, and dexterity were riveting. In an episode that mixed marimba with woodwinds, he produced streams of mellifluous timbres. Under Alsop’s supercharged direction, the New World brass and percussion sections had a field day.
Alsop’s ability to shed new light on even the most familiar works came to the fore in a magisterial performance of Brahms’s Symphony No.2. This was American Brahms that fused arching lyricism and headlong momentum in equal proportion. Alsop delineated the darkness beneath the music’s pastoral surface. Transitions were seamlessly achieved as the score unfolded in an arc of inevitability from the opening horn calls to a triumphant conclusion.
The strings’ hair trigger attack was but one of the instrumental details freshly scrubbed and finely transparent. Alsop’s spacious approach built to heights of eloquence. This revelatory Brahms performance was the work of a superbly insightful artist.