Beginning this evening, the San Francisco Symphony will perform their multi-concert “American Mavericks Festival” series in Ann Arbor, which features an assortment of works by various pioneering American composers. This concert festival, having begun in San Francisco, and traveled to Chicago before coming to Ann Arbor, has received heaps of praise for its sold-out concerts.
This evening’s concert at Hill Auditorium features Orchestral Variations, Aaron Copland’s orchestration of his own 1930 Piano Variations. Also on the concert are Henry Cowell’s 1928 Piano Concerto, with pianist Jeremy Denk, and the premiere tour of Mason Bates’s Mass Transmission (2010). Rounding out the concert is Lou Harrison’s Concerto for Organ with Percussion Orchestra (1973) with organist Paul Jacobs.
Friday night’s concert centers on John Cage’s Song Books (1970), with accomplished vocalists Joan La Barbara, Meredith Monk, and Jessye Norman, as well as the Henry Cowell’s Synchrony (1929-30). Perhaps the most anticipated performance will be John Adams’s newest work, Absolute Jest for string quartet and orchestra. On his blog, Hell Mouth, Adams explains how he used various Beethoven scherzi as the raw material for this new work. The evening ends with Amériques (1918-21), the masterpiece by Edgar Varèse.
The festival continues on Saturday with performances of Carl Ruggles’s Sun-Treader (1931), Morton Feldman’s work, Piano and Orchestra (1975), featuring pianist Emanuel Ax, and Henry Brant’s orchestration of Charles Ives Concord Sonata: A Concord Symphony.
The last concert of the festival switches gears, focusing on chamber music in the Rackham Auditorium. Members of the San Francisco Symphony will perform David Del Tredici’s Syzygy (1966) Echoi by Lukas Foss (1963), and two San Francisco Symphony co-commissions: Meredith Monk’s Realm Variations (2012) and Morton Subotnick’s Jacob’s Room: Monodrama (2012).
Concerts featuring such landmark, experimental works do not come around as often as they should. This series is not to be missed. For more information, visit American Mavericks, or the University Musical Society.