Play (composition)

Play is a symphony for orchestra in three movements by the American composer Andrew Norman. The work was commissioned by the Boston Modern Orchestra Project, for whom Norman was then composer-in-residence. It was first performed on May 17, 2013 by the orchestra under the conductor Gil Rose.[1]


Play has a duration of roughly 45 minutes and is composed in three movements:

  1. Level 1
  2. Level 2
  3. Level 3


Play has received an extremely positive critical response. Reviewing the world premiere, David Wright of the Boston Classical Review wrote, "No matter how complex and seemingly chaotic the music became, Norman's contrapuntal skill and imaginative handling of the large orchestra were evident throughout." He added, "A single hearing can hardly do a piece like Play justice, but the work's ambition and brilliant performance earned it warm and prolonged applause."[1] Reviewing a recording of the work, the music critic Alex Ross called it "a sprawling, engulfing, furiously unpredictable piece in three symphonic movements."[2] Tom Huizenga of NPR similarly called it "witty, playful, surprisingly transparent — aside from the bazillion little things going on — and probably thrillingly difficult to pull off."[3] David Weininger of The Boston Globe wrote:

Play [...] is being talked about as the most important long orchestral work of the 21st century. That kind of hype can often be misleading, but in this case it's quite likely accurate. The 45-minute, three-movement work, which encompasses various meanings of play — some lighthearted, some sinister — begins in an almost spastic fit of energy; musical ideas ricochet off one another furiously, almost too quickly. But embedded in the chaos are two scales: one ascending, the other descending. Their interaction and gradual transformation create the piece's overarching structure as the music progresses through three "levels," though it never loses its reckless feel.[4]


The Boston Modern Orchestra Project launched a Kickstarter campaign on June 13, 2013 to raise $8,000 for a recording of Play, in addition to Norman's orchestral work Try. The campaign closed on June 30, 2013 having successfully raised $9,525.[5] A recording of the work was subsequently released through the orchestra's label BMOP/Sound.[4] The BMOP recording was later named one of the best classical music recordings of 2015 by David Allen of The New York Times and was nominated for the 2016 Grammy Award for Best Classical Contemporary Composition.[6][7][8]


  1. 1 2 Wright, David (May 18, 2013). "BMOP celebrates youngish composers in season closer". Boston Classical Review. Retrieved December 24, 2015.
  2. Ross, Alex (January 5, 2015). "CD of the Week: Andrew Norman's Play". The Rest is Noise. Retrieved December 24, 2015.
  3. Huizenga, Tom (January 31, 2015). "Bach, Brits And A Bodacious Boston Orchestra: New Classical Albums". Deceptive Cadence. NPR. Retrieved December 24, 2015.
  4. 1 2 Weininger, David (March 15, 2015). "Andrew Norman, 'Play'". The Boston Globe. Retrieved December 24, 2015.
  5. "Andrew Norman - Play". Kickstarter. Retrieved December 24, 2015.
  6. "The Best Classical Music Recordings of 2015". The New York Times. December 10, 2015. Retrieved January 15, 2016.
  7. "2016 Grammy Awards: Complete list of nominees". Los Angeles Times. December 7, 2015. Retrieved January 15, 2016.
  8. Oteri, Frank J. (December 7, 2015). "About Those 2016 Grammy Nominations". NewMusicBox. Retrieved January 15, 2016.
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