An e-mail from Bridge Records alerted me to the ostensibly surprising fact that when the Alabama Symphony played an all-contemporary program of Paul Lansky's Shapeshifters, Jonny Greenwood's Popcorn Superhet Receiver, and Poul Ruders's Light Overture last month, the concert was completely sold out. Michael Huebner reports for the Birmingham News. You might attribute the success principally to Greenwood's Radiohead celebrity, but I'd mention three other factors: 1) under the direction of Justin Brown, the Alabama Symphony is playing at a very high level; 2) they're putting a great deal of imagination into their programming; 3) tickets were $15. The orchestra has an excellent program this weekend: Pärt's Cantus, Sibelius's Violin Concerto (with Pekka Kuusisto, who right now is playing this piece more vibrantly than anyone on the circuit), and Walton's irresistible First Symphony. The 'heads are in Texas.
News from Minnesota: Osmo Vänskä, the genius music director of the Minnesota Orchestra, has been composing a bit in recent years, and William Schrickel, who leads the Metropolitan Symphony, another Twin Cities orchestra, commissioned Vänskä to write a piece titled The Bridge, which will be played this Sunday, May 18th. The piece is connected to the tragic collapse of the I-35W bridge last summer. It is also designed as a bridge to the Mahler Seventh Symphony, which will directly follow it on the program. Schrickel sees quite a bit of Vänskä in his day job: he is the Minnesota's assistant principal bassist.