...The inclusion of familiar reportoire on Monday's program probably helped to pack the hall (a second program, including Beethoven's "Leonore" Overture and Symphony No. 7 in A major, and Lutoslawski's Symphony No. 4, was performed last night.)
Yet it was Hillborg's score, performed as Monday's centerpiece, that yielded the greatest rewards. With the Bay Area premiere of "Eleven Gates," Salonen and the orchestra made a persuasive case for the composer.
Dedicated to Salonen, who gave the work its world premiere in Los Angeles earlier this month, "Eleven Gates" creates a surreal sonic landscape, and an ever-changing one; throughout the 20-minute score, the listener hears bits of Beethoven, the Beatles and Donald Duck ("Kalle Anka" in Swedish).
The music is divided into 11 sections, connected by transitional "gates" with names such as "Confused Dialogues with Woodpeckers" and "Toy Pianos on the Surface of the Sea." Yet "Eleven Gates" doesn't feel episodic; Hillborg has given the score a musical through line with the strength of tempered steel.
The piece begins quietly, with the orchestra's divided strings creating a layered harmonic base. From this, voices of strings and woodwinds begin to rise up, expanding in speed and volume into an agitated mass. Eventually, an eerie calm descends -- and Hillborg starts the activity all over again, building to another huge sound wave. The finale, titled "Waves, Pulse and Elastic Seabirds," comes with a considerable jolt.
Salonen, presiding over a large orchestra augmented by exotic percussion (bongos, glass harmonica, Chinese gongs and vibraphone), conducted an astonishing performance, and Hillborg came onstage to one of the most enthusiastic ovations Davies Hall has heard in recent memory...
ContraCostaTimes.com, May 17, 2006 -- Georgia Rowe