From Eric Bruskin comes this worthwhile note:
Another reason not to hate the season – to give it a chance (and, if you wish, to see it as a further test of a hypothesis): maybe a good performance will help people appreciate this music, because they’ll finally hear what the composer wrote.
I love the music he’s programming. (I also love the music you’ve offered as an alternative.) I’ve loved hard-core modernism since I was in high school. But after moving to NYC and hearing many many concerts over the years, along with repeated listening to items in my record collection, I began to realize that many of those works are poorly performed. (I often followed scores.) Your typical New York Philharmonic premiere, for example: between the lousy acoustics and careless playing, many pieces sounded like a mess. And frankly, many composers simply cannot orchestrate music of the density that they can put on paper.
But over the last (say) 10 years, fabulous recordings of many hard-modernist works have renewed my enthusiasm for the style. Not everyone, but I happen to think that Levine has selected excellent composers who CAN orchestrate and whose music positively glows in a great performance. (Knussen doing Carter and Wuorinen, Levine doing Babbitt, Boulez doing his own music in the past 10 years.)
Levine is one of the few condunductors in the world who could actually bring this off.