American Mavericks


San Francisco Symphony/Michael Tilson ThomasSFSMedia SFS 0056 ****

Stravinsky never quite carried on where The Rite of Spring left off. But Edgard Varèse did, not least in his Amériques, written for a huge orchestra with a percussion section that includes sirens. Eight decades on its immediacy and rawness still impress.

Lou Harrison’s 1973 Concerto for Organ (with Paul Jacobs) and Percussion Orchestra (with obvious oriental leanings) exudes a relish in the possibilities of the combination that’s hard to resist. Organ and percussion, he sometimes makes you feel, were just destined to go together.

Henry Cowell’s 1930 Piano Concerto (Jeremy Denk) is rather too heavily dependent on the composer’s trademark clusters. But his earlier Synchrony (1928), written for Martha Graham, has a gripping trumpet solo.