I strongly second Steve Smith's impassioned report on the second and last performance of Osvaldo Golijov's St. Mark Passion at Rose Theater. Having already reviewed the major works on display at Lincoln Center's Golijov festival — the Passion, Ainadamar, and Ayre — I don't have much to add this time round, although my appreciation of the composer's gifts has only deepened. What impressed me this time about the Passion was the masterliness of the construction, the way Golijov marshals a potential chaos of disparate material into a steadily ascending arc of emotional, intellectual, and spiritual power. Robert Spano, the almost scarily possessed conductor, deserves much credit for bringing to the surface the deeper narrative logic of the work: at several significant points, big choral chords are sustained until they become structural beams, and the major-triad Amen at the end sounds as a majestic Q.E.D.
Alarm Will Sound's concert last week, on the Night of Ten New-Music Concerts, has inspired much comment, notably from Justin Davidson, Jerry Bowles, Darcy James Argue, and Maury D'annato. I attended only the first half; then, succumbing again to the bad urge to see everything (see this week's New Yorker column), I tried to go downtown to see David Schiff's piece, an expedition that ended in abject failure. What I saw of Alarm Will Sound confirms that this ensemble not only possesses extreme virtuosity (that we knew) but that it has developed powerful ideas about how to renovate the concert experience. The show had a practiced, focused energy. The stage movement in the Zappa piece was both logical and liberating. And it was, how you call it, funny; Justin highlighted the Wolfgang Rihm quotation that appeared onscreen just before his piece began ("I am very excited to write for your crazy ensemble," in gothic type). Rihm's new piece Will Sound is a rich little labyrinth of zig-zagging motivic fragments that gives way to a surprisingly rich, lucid, wistful conclusion — E-flat-ish triadic harmonies materializing from nowhere. The one thing I didn't like was the periodic display of explanatory texts while the musicians were playing. For me, this had a distracting and confining effect. That said, Alarm Will Sound are incontestably a sensational force.
Over a busy long weekend, I saw Sofia Gubaidulina's astonishing and disturbing new piece Feast During a Plague in Philadelphia, Albert Herring at Gotham Chamber Opera, Hercules at BAM, and the Voigt-powered revival of Forza at the Met. I'll write up reports as time allows. A quick addendum to this week's column: Luciano Berio's completion of Turandot can be heard on a fascinating Riccardo Chailly CD entitled Puccini Discoveries. Notwithstanding Birgit Nilsson's magnificent traversal of the title role, the all-around strongest recording of the complete opera is Zubin Mehta's, with Sutherland, Pavarotti, Caballé, and, yes, Peter Pears. Jens Laurson at ionarts has a detailed review of Valery Gergiev's Maryinsky Turandot.