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Review: ASO in top form for two new works

Review: ASO in top form for two new works

Two world premieres and the remarkably agile artistry of percussionist Colin Currie were some of the

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For Gazette music writer Geraldine Freedman's preview of this show, click here.

Two world premieres and the remarkably agile artistry of percussionist Colin Currie were some of the treats a very large crowd enjoyed Saturday night at the Experimental Media & Performing Arts Center as part of the Albany Symphony Orchestra’s American Music Festival.

The orchestra was in great form and music director David Alan Miller was in his element as they navigated often foreign and virtuosic terrain. The concert opened with the world premiere of the second and third installment of Stacy Garrop’s “Mythology Symphony.” Audiences in November heard the first movement.

Garrop writes with a great sense of color and drama that is both visual and visceral. For “The Lovely Sirens” (part II), the mood was urgent and dark with strong rhythms, blaring brass, and much percussion. Garrop used an expansive range of sound and color to create monsters of the deep — those sailors didn’t have a chance.

For “The Fates of Man” (part III), the three mythological sisters who spin, measure and cut the fiber of man, the music was dark and foreboding as it built to high volumes with many counter themes in complex harmonies. The road was tortuous and filled with angst and terror. Big thrilling chords were like bursts of fire only to ebb into a mournful demise.

James Primosch said his “Luminism” was a meditation on light. Much of the piece, which was a world premiere, wove in and out of various shades, some spare and peaceful, others threatening and violent. Because of this flux, there was no time line, which gave it a lack of direction.

Einojuhani Rautavaara’s Percussion Concerto (2009) suffered a bit of that same meditative wandering in its first two movements during which Currie sounded out delicate but technically challenging non-stop passages. But he earned his keep in the final movement, especially in the cadenza, which he wrote.

Currie sizzled. He skipped among the almost 10 different percussion instruments with precision, never missing a beat. His two and four-mallet work was brilliant, his sense of pacing and focused intensity was impressive. Miller and the orchestra provided a perfect support.

John Harbison’s Suite from his 1999 opera, “The Great Gatsby” was expert, clever and had all the swing and sway of the flapper age. His connections between 1920s-type tunes and more serious material had a special smoothness.

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