“The National Symphony Orchestra’s concerts this past week, led by Teddy Abrams, featured music composed in homage to the natural world,” writes Charles Downey in last Monday’s (4/1) Classical Review. “Saturday night … the NSO gave the world premiere of ARCTICA, a large new choral and symphonic work by Lera Auerbach…. Auerbach visited the Arctic Circle and had many conversations with National Geographic explorer-in-residence Enric Sala, as part of this co-commission by the National Geographic Society and the NSO. Auerbach [wrote] her own libretto in the Alaskan vernacular…. Auerbach herself played the solo piano part…. Recorded drips of water punctuated the dark silence. A large battery of exotic percussion instruments mimicked other watery sounds, while the sound of cracking ice was produced literally. An amplified percussionist, wearing protective goggles and surrounded by a glass shell, struck ice with mallets, producing a fury of splintered chips at one climax…. A section dotted with bird calls from the percussion and woodwinds elicited crazy shouts, groaning vocal glissandi often answered by unexpected keening sounds from flexatone and Theremin.” Also on the program were Dvořák’s overture In Nature’s Realm, Sibelius’s tone poem The Oceanides, and Mason Bates’s Sea-Blue Circuitry.

Posted April 8, 2019

In photo: The National Symphony Orchestra performs Lera Auerbach’s “ARCTICA” at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., conducted by Teddy Abrams with the composer as pianist, March 30. Photo by Tracey Salazar