Michael Tilson Thomas / San Francisco Symphony

American Mavericks

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AllMusic Review by

Michael Tilson Thomas' tribute to three American musical pioneers is a sonic showcase that will impress adventurous listeners with its bigger than life sound. This hybrid SACD features the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra in bold and spacious performances of Henry Cowell's powerful Synchrony and his even more forceful Piano Concerto, Lou Harrison's propulsive Concerto for organ with percussion orchestra, and Edgard Varèse's breathtakingly volatile Amériques. These modernist scores take full advantage of instrumental resources, and the assertively dissonant writing and interplay of dense textures make them challenging to audiences who like a little "bite" in their music. The orchestra plays with tremendous energy and vigor, which make the Cowell and Harrison pieces strident and gritty, while Varèse's Amériques is rather more lush and vibrant in sound, due to the orchestra's extraordinarily rich palette of tone colors. Connoisseurs of 20th century avant-garde music will relish this uncompromising program, and anyone exploring the modern masters for the first time would do well to give this exceptional recording a fair hearing.

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