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Top U.S. Orchestras 2009: Boston’s natural and effortless modernism (2009.03.28)

charles-dutoitContinuing our Top US Orchestras 2009 series, I headed up to Boston last weekend to catch a program that bridged the gap between more traditional narrative and phrasing with elements of 20th century modernism.  Guest conducted by Swiss talent Charles Dutoit, the program of Stravinsky, Ravel and Prokofiev made perfect sense considering his proclivity towards French and Russian 20th century music.

The Boston Symphony more than proved its chops as one of America’s top orchestras, displaying an ability to play challenging modern works in a natural and effortless fashion (something the Baltimore Symphony seems to struggle with off and on).  Too often, symphonies or orchestras feel too shoe-horned into modern works, far out of their comfort zone and never quite locking discordant, arrhytmic or irregular voices into the cohesive whole.  The BSO nimbly navigated the syncopated and dissonant aspects of the program, emulating the beauty, grace and dexterity of the finest class of danseur.

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Top U.S. Orchestras 2009: Pierre Boulez and the Lion’s Roar Pummel Chicago (2009.02.28)


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MP3: Edgard Varese – Ionisation

If we’re keeping score — like in the Olympics — I’d say Cleveland Orchestra still leads. But that’s not at all the fault of Maestro Pierre Boulez — nor his Chicago Symphony players — but the pieces themselves. It was a night billed as daring, repertoire-bending modernism. Neoclassical Stravinsky is no longer a thing one loathes and physically berates with fistfights or catcalls, but it sure doesn’t have you quit the hall humming.

However, if you wanted to see a full squadron of 15 men and women take the stage with an arsenal of percussive aural projectiles – you couldn’t have picked a better night.

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