Music: Where The Old Joins the New

William Bolcom thrives by mixing pop and classical

While composing some madrigals 20 years ago, William Bolcom stumbled onto an odd coincidence: "I discovered that the funeral hymn Abide with Me and the wedding march from Lohengrin fit in perfect Irving Berlin counterpoint -- a funeral-marriage, Love with Death." This is not a discovery that would impress most composers, but Bolcom is not like most composers. So when the Philadelphia Orchestra performed his powerful new Fifth Symphony last week, the second movement featured, along with intimations of both Tannhauser and Tommy Dorsey, that bizarre wedding of Wagner and Abide with Me.

"If you mix popular and classical forms, it...

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