Tonight at FCM: Copland, Foss, Ives, Bernstein

Lukas Foss

Here is Michael Tilson Thomas, tonight’s guest conductor, with his regular “band,” the San Francisco Symphony, in Aaron Copland’s Orchestral Variations. 

Also on the program, Quintets for Orchestra by my teacher Lukas Foss, Leonard Bernstein’s Prelude, Fugue, and Riffs, and Charles Ives’s New England Holidays.

Seattle SO Spotlights Americans


Ives, Symphony No. 2, Carter, Instances, Gershwin, An American in Paris

Seattle Symphony, Ludovic Morlot, conductor

Seattle Symphony Media SSM 1003


On Seattle Symphony’s latest CD, live recordings of American music that might at first seem like strange bedfellows end up being supplied with interesting connections. Part of this is the approach to interpretation of these pieces by Ludovic Morlot; he plays up the Romanticism in Ives’s Second Symphony and the modernist bite in the rhythms of Gershwin’s An American in Paris, allowing them to meet in the middle. The Seattle musicians make glorious music out of both pieces, digging into the sumptuous Brahmsian moments in the Ives as well as his collages of then-popular melodies; their Gershwin is suave and ebullient.


A most interesting inclusion is the CD’s centerpiece, Elliott Carter’s last work for orchestra, Instances. Written in 2012, just months before the 103 year-old’s passing, it is a whirlwind of gestures that those familiar with Carter’s late style are likely to recognize. In just under eight minutes, a large amount of material is aphoristically compressed into a taut structure that encompasses both the strenuous outbursts and rhythmic interplay for which Carter was so well known. There is also a long lyrical string line, punctuated by single piano notes, that serves as the piece’s summation. An affecting valediction.