Charles Zoll, a graduate student at McGill University, was the winner of the Rapido! Composition Contest, sponsored by the Atlanta Chamber Players and the Antinori Foundation. The prize includes a commission for a work to be performed by the ASO, and the result, “Asimov at Star’s End,” opened the concert. Traversing in some detail “the five books of the Foundation series” by science fiction writer Isaac Asimov, it might just have the most complex program of any 12-minute piece ever written. The work’s episodic nature allows for a kaleidoscope of colors and textures. Wildly ambitious, it at least provided a storm of youthful energy.
Inserted into the program without fanfare was a performance of Paul Hindemith’s 1934 work, “Mathis der Maler.” A short “symphony” drawn from his opera of the same name, it was once popular but has fallen on hard times and has not been heard in Atlanta in 25 years. That’s unfortunate, as the performance here was one of the highlights of the entire season.
The opera is based on the life of Matthias Grünewald, an artist during the Protestant Reformation. It deals with the role of the artist in a time of political upheaval, and was banned by the Nazis. There’s an important spiritual element that Spano captured nicely. Along the way, we got a model of clean playing, with sections performing in perfect unison and with organlike chords.