Virginia composer Mason Bates, barely 30, was commissioned by the National Symphony Orchestra to deliver them a work for orchestra and on Thursday it arrived when “Liquid Interface” (could one possibly devise a more new-agey name?) received its World Premiere at the Kennedy Center’s Concert Hall under the direction of Leonard Slatkin.
Mr. Bates, Philadelphia-born, Virginia-raised, and Oakland-residing did, what every modern composer seems to do: He looked up “percussion” in the New Grove and included every mentioned instance in his score. Topping the glass harmonica, wind machine, Glockenspiel, washboard with spoon (I’m not kidding), crotales, high tam-tam, etc., etc. was a electronica-beat drum-pad at which the composer himself tapped his fingers to project irregular electronic thuds. Mozartian improvisatory genius it was not – but in all fairness, the whole affair sounded pleasant enough. Much like a Buddha-Bar lounge version of anonymous film music. The sort of thing I’d play in the background at a moderately hip dinner party. Washed-out sounds of rain and atmospheric whimsy were superimposed on music that was good to hear in the moment, but forgettable the next. Nocturnes for Neverland.
F. Mendelssohn / M. Bruch, Violin Concertos, Romance, Jansen/Chailly/Gewandhaus
Tchaikovsky’s Pathetique, his Sixth Symphony, was the work for the second half and it showed a soft touch, confident (loud) brass, well shaped individual phrases that showed a care and attention to detail as one might not have expected from Maestro Slatkin in a work like this. Perhaps he lavished more care on it during rehearsal, this run of performances being, unbelievably, the first time that Slaktin performes the Tchaikovsky Sixth with the NSO. There was tension and drama in the third movement (the second and fourth sagged a little), the decibel level certainly strong enough to make the tummy tingle. Tubist (if that’s the word) Stephen Dumaine stood out for most excellent tubaing.
Repeat performances take place today, Friday, at 1.30PM and tomorrow, Saturday, at 8PM.