There's MTT the evangelist, advocating for rarely heard works and composers. And there's MTT the maestro, conducting old chestnuts with fresh vigor. Both were in full display last night, with a first half dedicated to modernists works from between the two world wars by composers rarely invited to Davies Symphony hall; and a second half with the ubiquitous Beethoven, in fine form. The program repeats tonight and tomorrow.
In the discovery chapter, we had two intricate pieces full of rhythmic complexities and brash brass, Silvestre Revueltas' Sensemayá and Edgard Varèse's Amériques. The first one is built upon a haunting drum drone and a repetitive walking bass motive interrupted by the eruption of controlled chaos from the whole orchestra. Controlled chaos applies to Amériques as well, a monster of a piece with all 125 members of the orchestra pulling in different directions. Yet it formed an evocative whole; we heard the bustle and clangor of an American metropolis (a programmatic interpretation explicitly denied by the composer). The use of the siren gave a slightly anachronistic London-under-the-blitz color; and the harps, usually the soundtrack of fluffy unicorns, get here there grittiest orchestration ever. These pieces were a revelation.