A quick couple of observations about John Williams's Air/Simple Gifts piece for Obama's inauguration. I really enjoyed the piece; the folk tune is unimprovable, and Williams has the kind of command of his craft that means he can execute a project like this brilliantly. Americana: short, pretty, folk-derived, with the kind of independent-lined quirky euphony that is a major part of our national art-music language, and may safely and conveniently be taken as a metaphor for American something-or-other, with my blessing. It was beautiful, and beautifully played.
One write-up said the ensemble was "out of central casting," which isn't far wrong: clarinettist Anthony Gill (Black guy), cellist Yo-Yo Ma (Asian guy), pianist Gabriela Montero (Latina), violinist Itzkhak Perlman (differently-abled Jewish White guy—a threefer!). They sounded wonderful, in what must have been cold and miserable conditions to play.
So: did anyone else mark that the ensemble—Clarinet, Violin, Cello, Piano–is Messiaen's Quartet for the End of Time ensemble? That point struck me immediately, as soon as they started playing, and I can't help wondering if there's some symbolism there: end of time? No, Olivier, on this side of the Atlantic we're just getting started. Cheers! And Let Freedom Ring.
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