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Octandre again? Varese heard twice this weekend at Tanglewood and Banglewood

Listeners in the Berkshires of Massachusetts had the chance to hear a masterwork by Edgar Varese twice in the span of 24 hours.  Octandre, Varese’s 1923 chamber composition, popped up on the evening program of the Bang on a Can Summer Festival Marathon at MASS MoCA in North Adams, and then again the next morning at a Tanglewood Music Center concert in nearby Lenox.

Brad Lubman, who conducted the performance at the annual Bang on a Can Summer Festival (aka “Banglewood”), and who presided over a performance of the composer’s Integrales at Tanglewood some 17 years before, suggested in his remarks (perhaps with a touch of irony) that the piece has become a repertoire staple.  I can’t recall having heard the piece on any elevators or L’Oreal commercials, so I can say I appreciated the opportunity to give Octandre a second listen after just one night’s sleep.  

Without belaboring comparison, I thought the Bang on a Can performance delivered the convulsive impact and colors of Octandre’s block chords particularly persuasively, while the other, conducted by Ken-David Masur, more convincingly conveyed the composition’s lyrical elements.  Repertoire staple or not, it’s a good thing (as one of my neighbors would say) to hear a central work of a composer whose influence on generations of musicians and compositions in many genres cannot be questioned.  

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to hit the repeat button on Coltrane’s Ascension.

Filed under bang on a can classical music tanglewood

  1. nickmoy posted this