I heard the Houston Symphony again tonight in Jones Hall. (Read about the premiere performance Thursday night, here at Sequenza21.)
1. Augusta Read Thomas spoke before the concert (see a video clip here) - showing some of the hand written score. There were lots of questions from the audience and good background about the work and Thomas' approach to composition.
2. Absolute Ocean's first movement is poetic and pointilistic. I heard strains of Copland in the music tonight, a flavor I didn't notice Thursday. There was a complete gaff in the supertitles - which I ignored even when they returned in the second movement - choosing to focus completely on the performance and music. Soprano Twyla Robinson' diction is such that you don't need the supertitles - and her voice is pure, passionate and pleasing.
3. The second movement, complete genius, was quicker and flowed with all of its humor, charm and brilliance. Ensemble was tight with the soloists and orchestra.
4. After a brief cadenza, the finale movement is touching and appropriately dramatic. Word painting without being banal certainly highlights the poetry with sublime music.
5. Mahler's Fourth Symphony is an ideal pairing for Absolute Ocean, and in particular, Twyla Robinson - she's busy for the first 20 minutes of Thomas' piece, then has a break until the finale of Mahler...also the dreamy score of Thomas leads beautifully to the heavenly view of Mahler. A completely satisfying program.
There is another performance of Absolute Ocean and Mahler's Fourth Symphony tomorrow afternoon at 2:30pm.