On Saturday, November 7, I attended the New York premiere of Angel Lam's
'Awakening from a Disappearing Garden' with Yo Yo Ma, Cello, and Angel
Lam, narrator. The Atlanta Symphony was conducted by Robert Spano.
This was part of Carnegie Hall's Ancient Paths Modern Voices, A Festival
Celebrating Chinese Culture, October 21- November 10, 2009. Lam's work
was commissioned by Carnegie Hall for Yo Yo Ma, but first performed in
Atlanta three weeks ago. Also on the program, Stravinsky's Le Rossignol
Ms. Lam's new work is a half-hour concerto for cello and large orchestra,
with two dream narrations spoken here by the composer. The orchestration
includes two dozen percussion instruments which lend the work much of
its character; they sound often very softly, sometimes loudly. The cello
provides flowing melody. The narratives, 'Chapter 1' and 'Chapter 2,'
preceding the two movements, might well be omitted without detriment to
the music, which is quite beautiful. On a single hearing I cannot begin
to give a detailed account of the work, but it is to be hoped that a
recording will appear to provide further acquaintance with it.
This is the second concert presentation of Le Rossignol (The
Nightingale) I have attended; the first was in Paris many years ago.
This performance was semi-staged, with the nightingale first appearing
in the second tier seats overlooking the stage, fluttering away and
reappearing in the far right aisle shortly thereafter. The singer
representing the emperor had a throne-like chair before the orchestra,
in which he slumped to simulate his illness toward the end. The first
of the three short acts was written before the Firebird, the other two
shortly after the Sacre du printemps. The music has but bare suggestions
of the styles of those works. It is a rather gentle piece, really. In
addition to the singers and orchestra, there is a mixed choir. A strikingly
strange feature of the choir is that at one point these singers turned
their backs to the audience and faced the rear wall. I have no idea
On Wednesday last week the Saint Louis Symphony performed Stravinsky's
reduction of the opera as The Song of the Nightingale, along with works
by Tan Dun and Bright Sheng, as part of this same festival, but I was
not able to attend that.
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