By Lawrence Budmen

In the past decade Michael Tilson Thomas has turned increasingly to composition - and he has come into his own as a creative artists. Two seasons ago his endearingly multicultural Island Music was a great success. Tilson Thomasís song cycle Poems of Emily Dickinson received its premiered Thursday at the Lincoln Theater with the formidable American soprano Barbara Bonney as soloist. New World Symphony coaching associate Michael Linville conducted works by Samuel Barber and Jacob Druckman. 

Druckmanís Come Round is scored for violin, cello, flute, clarinet, piano, and percussion. A series of brief atonal motivic fragments are ingenuously presented in bright, striking instrumental combinations. 

Samuel Barberís Medea Suite is adapted from his 1947 ballet score Cave of the Heart. Written for choreographer Martha Graham, the work fuses Barberís quintessential lyricism with modernity of the neo-Stravinsky variety. Linville conducted a beautiful performance of this sensuous music. 

Like his fellow composer-conductor Andre Previn, Tilson Thomas writes beautifully for the soprano voice. His Emily Dickinson cycle is an assured, vibrant setting of the poetís social criticism. Tilson Thomas has bathed her words in rich orchestral timbres. While musical influences abound, they are refracted through Tilson Thomasís personal voice. Fame is a torch song in the vein of Eubie Blake with percussive, rhythmic accompaniment. The sound of Bernsteinís Broadway and ballet scores hover over The Bible. This superb cycle is a major addition to the literature for soprano and orchestra in the tradition of Copland, Barber, and Previn. 

Barbara Bonney gave extraordinary voice to Tilson Thomasís rapturous settings. Bedecked in a black evening gown, she was a strikingly beautiful and vibrant presence on stage. Her exquisite lyric soprano soared effortlessly in the stratosphere of the Ives tinged Down Timeís Quaint Stream. The rich, voluptuous sounds of her low register embraced The Earth Has Many Keys. She brought real jazzy syncopation to Fame. In the concluding Take All Away From Me, Bonneyís voice soared above the orchestra with incandescent beauty. Tilson Thomas conducted a gorgeous, multihued accompaniment. This score marks a new, mature phase in his creative output. 

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