Tapping into the Twenties

March 23, 2025

David Geffen Hall, Lincoln Center


The ASO’s first concert at the new David Geffen Hall focuses on music of composers who came of age in the 1920s. Chief among them was Edgar Varèse, whose colossal Amériques (Americas) (1922) exemplifies his search for “the bomb that would make the music world explode.” In line with the Italian Futurist movement, Varèse used noises like explosive dynamics, crashing sonorities, and relentlessly propulsive rhythms to evoke “organized sounds” of Modernity, from traffic on the streets of Manhattan to foghorns on the Hudson River. Written for nearly 60 woodwinds and brass and the largest percussion section that had yet been utilized, Amériques stretches the post-Romantic orchestra to its breaking point.

Varèse’s pupil, William Grant Still, found inspiration in the blues and spirituals of Black Americans. In his best-known work, the Afro-American Symphony (1930), Still represents the experiences of the African diaspora, from the sorrows of the past to hope in the future.

Among the first composers to recognize the expressive potential of jazz in the 1920s was Austro-Czech composer Erwin Schulhoff. Blending freely improvisational, jazz-influenced passages with Neoclassical elements, along with repetitive patterns that foreshadowed Minimalism, Schulhoff’s Concerto for Piano and Small Orchestra (1924) demonstrates the compositional range and versatility of this unjustifiably neglected composer, a leading exemplary of the “Lost Generation” of Jewish composers, suppressed or (as was the case with Schulhoff) physically eliminated during the Holocaust.

Another composer who sought to create a distinctly American sound on the concert stage was John Alden Carpenter. His work Skyscrapers (1923-24), with its language of jazz and popular tunes, blends seamlessly with an idiom of dissonances and frenetic, asymmetric rhythms made modern in the 1920s. Like Varèse, Carpenter imaginatively depicts “the many movements and sounds of modern American life.”

Tickets will go on-sale September 9, 2024.

The ASO’s Vanguard Series is made possible by the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of the Office of the Governor and the New York State Legislature.

This program is supported, in part, by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council.


March 23, 2025
Conductor’s Notes 2PM | Concert 3PM
David Geffen Hall, Lincoln Center


John Alden Carpenter (1876-1951)
Skyscrapers (1924)

Erwin Schulhoff (1894-1942)
Concerto for Piano and Small Orchestra, Op. 43 (1923)

William Grant Still (1895-1978)
Symphony no. 1 ‘Afro-American Symphony’ (1929-30)

Edgard Varèse (1883-1965)
Amériques (1922)


Orion Weiss, piano
Leon Botstein, conductor