Just four years old, but already much feted, Edward Applebaum's Second Symphony reached Los Angeles on Friday night, courtesy of conductor Daniel Lewis and his USC Symphony.
The attractive work, winner of the 1984 Kennedy Center Friedheim Awards, is enigmatic, mysterious and thoroughly complex. It contains quiet but hectic activity, busy dialogues between orchestral choirs, solos out-front and understated, a sense of frenzy and a sense of calm. It is multilayered, and much of what happens in its 16 minutes goes on, as the astrologers say, below the horizon.
Yet it is thoughtful, unaggressively but stubbornly atonal, articulate and highly colored. And it presents tremendous challenges to any ensemble. The customary virtuosity of the USC Symphony--even though, like university football teams, its players change at least once annually--can be counted upon, however.
The student musicians gobbled up these dense and complicated passages, special instructions and esoteric balancing requirements, and in the process seemed to create sense out of chaos. Lewis conducted as clearly and unperspiringly as if it were Haydn. Of course, the composer, a member of the faculty at UC Santa Barbara, was present to acknowledge the success.
Lewis followed this display of accomplishment with more of the same in Nielsen's Flute Concerto --in which Patricia Cloud was the imperturbable, fluent soloist--and Dvorak's Sixth Symphony.