Jonathan Leshnoff’s Symphony No. 2, “Innerspace”—an engaging, accessible force of new music from a composer with an approachable modern voice—is all about the ending.
A silent fifth movement, with a tempo marking of “Unimaginable”, is a brash choice after four movements of emotional, intense music, but that nothingness is as loud and affecting as any bombastic, triumphant coda.
The Atlanta Symphony Orchestra performed the world premiere of Jonathan Leshnoff’s Symphony No. 2.
On Thursday night at Symphony Hall, Robert Spano and the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra caught a star on the rise, presenting the world premiere of the 42-year-old Leshnoff’s symphony, an ASO commission, alongside Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7. Spano and the ASO will also perform the world premiere of Leshnoff’s “Zohar” oratorio, a joint commission with Carnegie Hall, on April 14 in Atlanta (then again on April 16). The program will then travel to Carnegie Hall in New York for an April 30 performance.
In Leshnoff’s own words, the symphony was born from the exploration of his Jewish heritage and unpacks the main themes from Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan’s book on Jewish religion, “Innerspace.” In the book, Kaplan explains the five levels, or universes, of occlusion from God, which are reflected in the five movements of Leshnoff’s symphony. The first movement, which begins with an anguished cry from the horn section followed by lush, other-worldly strings, represents the first universe, where humanity resides. The fifth level, silence, is the universe that is closest to God.
... Spano bled an enormous amount of passion from the piece, emphasizing the juxtapositions in tempo and feel deep within each movement.
Symphony No. 2 will surely become a lasting, heralded work.
—Jon Ross, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, November 6, 2015