ASO to Bring English 'Creative Explosion' to Carnegie Hall, 1/31
American Symphony Orchestra bring an English "creative explosion" (and a musical volcano) to Carnegie Hall. Leon Botstein leads "This England" - four works that helped to change the game for English music, and for the rest of us, on January 31 at 8pm.
Perhaps the greatest disservice ever done to English music was its dismissal by the modernist composer Elizabeth Lutyens as "cowpat music". That statement was a hangover of a common perception from the late nineteenth and early twentieth century that, despite the country's power and reputation, it wasn't actually very good at producing interesting music. But World War One marked the beginning of a new explosion of creative energy, one that saw exciting modern composers pour into England's concert halls, reaching across the sea to America, even to Hollywood. "This England" from Leon Botstein and the American Symphony Orchestra brings this England to Carnegie Hall.
An apocalyptic vision of the future begins the concert, with Arthur Bliss's admired score to the film version of HG Wells' sci-fi cult classic The Shape Of Things To Come. Next comes the imaginative (and very rarely heard) tour-de-force piano and orchestra work Phantasm by Frank Bridge (with pianist Piers Lane), the adored teacher of Benjamin Britten, a fascinating exploration of new soundscapes. A literal creative eruption closes the first half, in the boisterous but beautifully crafted shape of Robert Simpson's Volcano. And the second half is given to what Leon Botstein has called, simply, "one of the great symphonies of the twentieth century", William Walton's Symphony No 2.
The mix is made perhaps more interesting by the fact that the first three of these composers are almost never heard in America today, and the fourth is now generally better-known for his iconic film scores (especially the three Laurence Olivier Shakespeare films, starting with Henry V) than his many classical works. Botstein dismisses the whims of fashion: "Except for Walton maybe none of the names are very well-known, but they were once very (famous) and very highly-regarded". And part of a line of creativity in English music that stretches to today and influences their British creative heirs, proof of which might be seen in the New York Times's recent list of modern operas that will surely last - seven out of the 13 named are by British composers.
$25 / $35 / $50 and subscriptions are available at americansymphony.org and by phone at 212-868-9276. Tickets are also available at CarnegieHall.org, at the Carnegie box office, or by calling CarnegieCharge at 212-247-7800. The Conductor's Notes Q&A at 7pm in Stern Auditorium is free with concert ticket.