Sunday, March 08, 2009

Philharmonic Orchestra of the Americas

The Philharmonic Orchestra of the Americas (POA) presented an intriguing program of works by women composers on Thursday, March 5, 2009 in advance of International Women's Day, which is today (which means that International Women's Day is an hour short this year in much of the world).

The selection that impressed me the most was the "Gaelic" Symphony, completed by Amy Beach in 1896. Known as the first symphony written by an American woman, the Gaelic received a polished and well-shaped reading from the orchestra under conductor Alondra de la Parra. Outstanding among the individual performances was a turn on the English horn by Jessica Pearlman, who seems to be proficient in neuroscience as well as double-reedology!

Beach's symphony, which drew some attention in its day, deserves more hearings and more attention in this century. Somewhat "pastoral" in feeling, it holds up very well in comparison with other symphonies that seem to be performed more often. As Joseph Horowitz remarked in The New York Times in 1991: "No European country would so ignore a native symphony as tuneful, skilled and picturesque; its American neglect betrays the insecurities of a borrowed high culture fixated on pedigreed 'greatness.'"

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