William Bolcom's Lady Liberty
Based on a rehearsal I attended in early April, here's what listeners can expect from Lady Liberty: a resolute choral march setting a poem by Bolcom's longtime collaborator Arnold Wein-stein, with Mahler's harmonic irony, Gershwin's melodic sentimentality, and Ives's cranky individuality fused into Bolcom's singular postmodernist personality. Lady Liberty opens with a low dirge sung over almost jaunty piano accompaniment, flows into a more lyrical central section peaking with a hymn to "Lovely Lady Liberty," then returns to the opening dirge for two impassioned climaxes leading to a long, lingering coda and a final, ecstatic cadence.
Whether that coda lingers too long is up to the listener. In rehearsal, Cohen kept the pace moving in the coda and took care to sculpt the final cadence into something more consoling than corny, holding the final chord not a moment too long. The only way to find out how it'll work out in performance, of course, is to hear it for yourself.
[Originally published in May, 2009.]