ASO: Robert Spano with Roberto Díaz

Thursday’s program for the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra began with two pieces that were making their Atlanta debut but, interestingly, had been conducted at their respective world premiers by Robert Spano. The first of these was Alex Turley’s City of Ghosts. The first thing that caught my attention was the diminished string complement: each section had only two musicians with the exception of the solitary double bassist. At first it came across as merely atmospheric, but it quickly became interesting. The strings seemed to be in the background of the piece, with the woodwinds and brass standing out, and occasionally would ease their way to the forefront. At times this was effective, like the strings were apparitions fading in and out of perception, but it often sounded like the dynamics were just off, as though we should have been able to hear the strings more clearly. I’m not entirely sure if this was due to Turley’s intent or a function of the conducting. It’s an interesting piece and reasonably enjoyable but the sense of imbalanced dynamics left me feeling a bit ambivalent towards it.
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