Saluting Flexibility, If Not the Flag; at Spoleto
(...) The official festival concert, on Thursday, offered the American premiere of "Surrogate Cities", a sonic boom of a symphony from 1994 by Heiner Goebels, a pathbreaking German composer. This work, everywhere amplified, draws much of its driving energy from rock. It turns the symphony orchestra on its head, so that percussion dominates; the brasses fill out the sound, and string and woodwinds often provide little more than local color.
The sheer exhilarating sonic assault, heavy with sampling and with vocal effects that could pass for it (or for percussion), is barely suggested in a new recording from ECM (which of course als forgoes the visual assault of spotlights repeatedly searching the stage and the audience). It gave one listener a first sense of what it must have been like to hear a big Mahler symphony a century ago, with the whole notion of sonic possibility expanded at a stroke.
This basic texture made all the mor striking the isolated moments of conventional beauty, like the old recording of a haunting cantoral song, gently lifted, as it were, out of the rubble. Or rubble it seemed. Literary meaning is illusive in this work, with inspiration from Kafka and dimly scrutable texts by Paul Auster an others.
That sense of finding jewels amidst rubble was enhanced by the setting of the Memminger Auditorium, an old building abandoned after Hurricane Huge blew its roof off in 1989 and partly restored for the purpose. Here was an opportunitiy for Charleston, so immersed in its ancient history (not to say heritage), to reconnect with its more recent history as well. The performance by Mr. Sloane and the festival orchestra was a knock-out, at times almost literally, and David Moss supplied most of those remarkable effects. (...)
James R. Oestreich
NY Times (US), 6 June 2000