“Julius Eastman died destitute in 1990, but his Symphony No. 2 inhabits a world of plenty,” writes Corinna da Fonseca-Wollheim in Wednesday’s (11/21) New York Times. “He composed this work, which received a belated premiere on Tuesday at Alice Tully Hall, as a parting gift to a lover in 1983. By then Eastman had been evicted from his home…. Somehow, he still composed music of cosmic grandeur. A familiarity with the biography of Eastman—black, gay, emotionally vulnerable—is not necessary to appreciate his music, which can be ceremonial, cunning and brash. Still, it was hard not to listen for hints of instability during the exciting performance on Tuesday by the Mannes Orchestra, led by Luciano Chessa, who also edited the score…. Embedded in a texture of spendthrift immensity—stacked with extra tubas, contrabassoons, bass clarinets and 24 timpani—individual voices sound frightfully naked. But what’s most striking is the composer’s command of these monstrous forces…. When [the timpani] ratchet up the volume, the sound rises like a tsunami…. The quality of this student orchestra was as much a revelation as the dark brilliance of Eastman’s rediscovered work.” Also on the program were works by Sarah Kirkland Snider and Einojuhani Rautavaara.

Posted November 27, 2018

In photo: Luciano Chessa, who edited Julius Eastman’s rediscovered Symphony No. 2, leading the premiere of the work with the Mannes Orchestra at Alice Tully Hall. Photo by Michelle V. Agins / The New York Times