The National Youth Orchestra of the United States of America (NYO-USA) heads to China for a stirring concert at Beijing’s National Centre for the Performing Arts. Joined by superstar French pianist Jean-Yves Thibaudet, the young musicians are led by maestro Michael Tilson Thomas in works by Gershwin and Sibelius as well as a world premiere by American contemporary composer Ted Hearne.
In this intriguing program, NYO-USA explores works that directly challenge contemporary conceptions of classical music. The musicians begin with Ted Hearne’s 2018 Carnegie Hall commission, Brass Tacks. Praised by The New York Times for his “tough edge and wildness of spirit” and “topical, politically sharp-edged works”, Hearne is known for his award-winning compositions that force audiences to critically examine the world around them through music. Gershwin’s Concerto in F Major follows, a work that employs the musical language of jazz in a way that astonished those around him: as Walter Damrosch, who conducted the work’s premiere, explained: “George Gershwin seems to have accomplished ... [a] miracle ... he is the Prince who has taken Cinderella [i.e. jazz] by the hand and openly proclaimed her a princess to the astonished world, no doubt to the fury of her envious sisters.” The concert closes with Sibelius’s Second Symphony, a work that makes direct reference to Beethoven’s symphonies, yet was simultaneously interpreted as a celebration of Finnish language and culture as expressed through the late Romantic idiom.
Photo: Michael Tilson Thomas © Vahan Stepanyan
Los Angeles Philharmonic
Boston Symphony Orchestra (1970)