Artistic Director, Conductor, and Founder Thomas Crawford ascended to the stage in the magnificent Alice Tully Hall at Lincoln Center to deliver opening remarks about this evening’s musical offerings. His presentation included a dedication to former ACO member Judson Griffen and the associated premiere of his work Elegy for Strings.
Cognoscenti Crawford’s assiduous attention to artistic and historical detail is apparent. This begins with his elegantly detailed program booklet, program notes, texts and translation, biographies, and the hearty coterie of ACO patrons and supporters. Working without a printed score, Crawford’s conducting was precise, expressive, and intensely subtle as he skillfully led the world-class orchestra, chorus, and soloists he assembled and mobilized. The orchestra seemed to have arrived from the 17th century with its magnificent compendium of period instruments, including basset clarinets and trumpets in D, the rich, warm sound of gut strings (not the modern wire, synthetic core, or wire wound strings), and reserved use of vibrato.
During his opening remarks of eloquent commentary, Crawford captivated his audience. He ably engaged the musicians to demonstrate passages highlighting his musical illuminations associated with the provenance and inspiration for his Elegy for Strings and Mozart’s modus operandi in the Requiem, K. 626. Next, he conveyed a tale of intrigue and legend about the Requiem’s completion after Mozart’s death. He illuminated concepts like “word painting,” “polyphonic and monophonic textures” and described Mozart’s use of angular bowing and fugue to convey meanings concomitant to the sacred texts. Crawford’s choice of using Robert Levin’s version of the closing segments of the Requiem was the apposite solution to the reverent emendation of lesser versions and the ultimate completion of Mozart’s masterpiece.
Crawford’s sagacity, inimitable charm, and wit evoked delight, inspiration, and adoration. One could not help but chuckle at his droll quips and anecdotes, and for those who read the program with care, you may have noticed his name and cited life span as 1956-2047. For a moment, memories flashed before me of the beloved brilliant musical scholar and humorist Peter Schickele at Carnegie Hall with a large sandwich in his tuxedo jacket pocket as he described ersatz composer PDQ Bach’s oeuvre.
Crawford’s encomium, the Elegy for Strings, achieved the composer’s goal “to seek sympathetic vibrations from concerts past while enabling these vibrations to briefly touch us in the present.” The work is a clear tribute honoring the legacy of violinist Judson Griffin, a 30-year member of the ACO, and celebrates his life as an artist and friend. As a musical poet, Crawford reminds us of the ephemeral nature of life and musical art that exists as we experience it but remains in our consciousness and spirits as it slips away from the immediate. The work was richly expressive, tonal, soulful, melodic, and sometimes tempestuous and discordant.
The performance of Mozart’s Requiem, K526, was glorious and ecstatic. The sui generis admixture of rich sounds from soloists, chorus, and orchestra was superb. At the same time, the sumptuous luminosity of the resplendent Lacrimosa was almost more than an emotive listener could process without soulful introspection.
Tonight’s soloists were splendid, and the sound balance between them and the other musicians was markedly excellent. The chorus demonstrated the highest level of artistry through blend, diction, articulation, adherence to dynamics and tempi, and transcendent expression. The opulent sounds of the period orchestra transfixed as it led us through a sojourn of sublime musical artistry and blinding radiance. Overall, this evening’s event was memorable, rapturous, and mystical.
Bravo, thanks and well-deserved approbation are due to Maestro Crawford and his fellow artists for a memorable, uplifting evening of music and celebration.
The American Classical Orchestra
PO Box 366
New York NY 10025-0007
For tickets and information on this year’s concert season, go to aconyc.org.