May 2013

Great Atomic Desire?

by Composers of Sibelius

Perhaps under a subconscious influence from Hollywood, I’ve been on an Americana kick for some weeks now. Perhaps it started with the suggestion of a co-worker that I watch the film On the Waterfront, which was followed by suggestions for A Streetcar Named Desire and before you know it it’s middle school English class all over again, except this time I might actually be able to appreciate all this “culture.”

So imagine my surprise when I discovered not only was I free to attend the One World Symphony season finale but that the program was right in line with this Americana kick. Serendipity? Synchronicity? Whatever — I was excited, enough even to leave my warm, dry home on a cold, rainy evening to take the ride into Manhattan. One World Symphony always delivers, so I knew I wasn’t taking a gamble with the evening’s outcome.

I must admit some of the finer nuances of the program were lost on me at the time of the concert. I didn’t originally expect to be available, so when I discovered I was, months later, I didn’t even check to refresh my memory what was on the menu for the evening. This is a luxury one can count on with the One Word Symphony — you will be in for top rate entertainment no matter what with them — stimulating selections, impeccably performed time after time. But another dimension is always present in their concerts, and that is a unified theme for each program, an added layer of content for digestion by the inquisitive mind, baking the evening into an intellectually richer, more luxuriant experience.

I consciously got as far as the Americana. The deeper, darker tones were there — I couldn’t help hearing them — but I didn’t make conscious associations at the time with any “real world” activities. To me, beautiful, dark music is just that — beautiful music. Yet my lack of full awareness didn’t detract from the experience in the least. Like all great fugal structures, you don’t have to understand everything that is going on to appreciate that beauty is present. The beauty may intensify with understanding, but even in darkest ignorance beauty’s qualities shine through by their nature. And that is what I experienced Sunday evening: beautiful, shadow-tinged, haunting music, from the nostalgic opening pieces to the hauntingly ominous closing work (a world premiere by Sung Jin Hong entitled Edge).

We were  treated first to a short excerpt from Wagner’s Tristan Und Isolde, demonstrating the power of orchestration in producing a desired mood. John Adams, we were informed by One World Symphony’s maestro Sung Jin Hong, used the same orchestration to color an equally dark section of his Doctor Atomic. We heard a sample of this next for comparison. A free orchestration master class, if you will, within five minutes of the concert — music lover’s can’t do better than to attend the One World Symphony’s programs!

We then had the pleasure of listening to “unprogrammed” selections from Britten (so I was later informed!) and (more familiar to me) Gershwin, these cabaret style and very sultry sounding. Perfect mood for my Americana kick. Then the music segued into the programmed selections of the evening, the songs flowing from one to another without break, each sung by a perfect voice (it never fails to astonish me how many beautiful voices there are in the world…).

At first I tried to determine exactly where the music from one song ended and the bridge into the next began, but it dawned on me that these bridges (composed by Maestro Hong) were so well constructed and smooth that they accomplished their task completely, creating aurally seamless transitions from  one independent song to the next as if the whole collection were composed as a set. An astonishing feat, indeed, which, not unlike those Wagnerian epics of old, imbued the event with a dreamlike quality — a sense of immersion into a realm beyond the realities of space and time where there exists only the music, and one’s personal experiences therewith.

In summary: if you want to hear crystal clear voices singing haunting melodies whilst lush strings swell and swoop; if you want to hear brass hum and growl, whilst woodwinds sing and chatter; if you want to hear timpani roll like terrifying thunder, then don’t miss a chance to hear One World Symphony in concert.