Gandolfi’s new piece began with a piano rallying cry: guest artist Marc-Andre Hamelin pounded out a series of interlocking chords that began with a cannon blast of sound and diminished to a whisper. This evocation passed to the orchestra, which emerged with oscillating strings and a soaring horn solo — a hunter call off in the distance. All went quiet for a second piano call before the concerto shot off like a bottle rocket, bristling with passion.
Much of that energy issued from the piano. Hamelin took a jazz-like approach to the piece’s voluble runs of piano notes, where continual frothiness in the right hand was alternately echoed by the left or supported by a simpler figure. These weren’t syncopated sounds, but his controlled yet chaotic approach to the notes on the digital page Hamelin read from had an aura of improvisation. The concerto is a dazzling, thoroughly enjoyable piece of music.
Michael Kurth’s “Everything Lasts Forever,” the closer on Friday, contained so much joy. The ASO has performed the three-movement work, which zips by in under 15 minutes, a handful of times over the years and recorded it on a disc full of Kurth works, but I always forget how great it is. The music is groovy; it pulses; the instruments sing out with catchy melodies. Kurth, who has been a member of the ASO’s bass section since 1994, surely deserves wider recognition as a vital and intriguing classical voice.
Friday’s program, designed as a showcase of living composers and the ASO’s commissioning activities, might have been too much new music for some. Would listeners rather hear Beethoven and a 19th-century piece on their journey to something written by a composer sitting in the audience? It’s hard to say. But however the vital work of living composers is presented by the ASO to future audiences, the fund will ensure that Atlantans will be able to ask these questions and to think critically about new works well after Spano leaves the city.
Atlanta Symphony Orchestra
8 p.m. Nov. 19. Symphony Hall, 1280 Peachtree St. NE, Atlanta. 404-733-5000, atlantasymphony.org.