Seen&Heard Editor: Marc Bridle                              Founder Len Mullenger:

MusicWeb Internet
 powered by FreeFind 

S & H International Concert Review

Rorem, Flute Concerto (world premiere), Jeffrey Khaner (flute), Philadelphia Orchestra, Roberto Abbado, Philadelphia, Dec. 2003 (BJ)

After the concentrated two-week celebration of Ned Rorem's 80th birthday organized by the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia December saw two additional events. The Philadelphia Chamber Music Society, which has brilliantly transformed the city’s chamber-music scene over the past decades under the leadership of artistic director Anthony Checchia, offered a performance of the composer’s Fourth String Quartet, and the Philadelphia Orchestra gave the world premiere of his Flute Concerto.

The quartet is a characteristically fluent and fascinating Rorem piece. The concerto, first in a series of commissions the Philadelphia Orchestra has instituted for its principal players, is something perhaps more unusual. It is titled "concerto," Rorem acknowledges, more for "sheer practicality" than for any association with the traditions of the concerto as a form; he originally thought of calling it Odyssey. Laid out in six movements (The Stone Tower, Leaving–Traveling–Hoping, Sirens, Hymn, False Waltz, and Résumé and Prayer), this is not so much a concerto as a surpassingly imaginative fantasy for flute and orchestra, the movement headings referring not to programmatic or narrative specific but rather to expressive atmosphere and the changing course of the musical argument.

What makes the work compel the listener’s attention is the extraordinarily inventive range and variety of textures and colors Rorem draws from his solo instrument and from the large orchestra he uses. As always, the music sounds like nobody else’s, and it achieves this end without any obscurantist technical abradadabra, speaking a fundamentally tonal language that combines originality with the appearance of inevitability. At a little over 30 minutes in duration, Rorem’s Flute Concerto could well prove to be a major addition to a genre somewhat lacking in works of real substance. Jeffrey Khaner shaped the solo part with masterly fluency and quicksilver tone. The orchestra also demonstrated something of its fabled sumptuousness, but guest conductor Roberto Abbado managed, both in the concerto and in the performance of Debussy’s Martyrdom of Saint Sebastian symphonic fragments that preceded it, to make practically every movement and tempo, no matter how cleverly contrasted by the composers, sound the same. It is to be hoped that the piece will be heard again soon, with a more resourceful conductor on the podium.

Bernard Jacobson



Seen&Heard is part of MusicWeb Webmaster: Len Mullenger

Return to: Seen&Heard Index

Return to: Music on the Web