A symphony orchestra in a Fringe Festival? It sure makes sense when the orchestra gives an entire program of recent music by four American composers, all very much alive.
Space is limited, so I’ll start with the piece that gives the concert its title: a spectacular ”dramatic symphony” for violin and orchestra by John Adams, written as recently as 2015 for Leila Josefowicz. The piece is a 21st-century take on the female tale-spinner, played by the solo violinist. Like Rimsky-Korsakov, who had the idea first, Adams is wonderful with big, eventful orchestral canvasses: this is the most eventful, alluring, and indeed dramatic piece imaginable. Josefowicz has a commanding stage presence who not only plays the music but also acts the hell out of it the role.
Ward Stare and the RPO preceded this massive 50-minute work with three shorter works. Mason Bates’ “Mothership” is a very entertaining exercise in orchestral electronica that includes some improv for a couple of players. Cindy McTee’s “Einstein’s Dream” is interestingly spacey, and Reich’s “Three Movements” is, like just about everything he’s ever written, glitteringly abstract perfection that packs a surprising emotional punch.
Call them pseudo-rave, call them neo-Romantic, call them Minimalist, call them whatever, these composers definitely belong on RPO programs. Stare leads all of them with easy conviction (providing helpful spoken explanations for each work) and the orchestra — grouped, re-grouped, and augmented with electric guitars, a cimbalom, and much else — plays them splendidly. I can’t do this concert justice in a Fringe-sized review — just GO already!
The RPO under Ward Stare will also perform “Scheherazade .2” in Kodak Hall on Saturday, September 21, at 8 p.m. Tickets start at $24.. Appropriate for age 13 and over.