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Festival probes formula for orchestral creativity. Bottom line: good music.

I heard a lot of invigorating and unusual orchestral music this week. The Shift festival of American orchestras, which finished its second iteration on Saturday night, is a confusing and well-meaning event that tries to showcase creativity in the field by presenting four American orchestras in a range of performances, in and out of the Kennedy Center Concert Hall. But the bottom line: Good music is good, and I was glad to have more of it.

To experience Shift the way joint presenters Washington Performing Arts and the Kennedy Center conceived the festival, music lovers could have ranged the length and breadth of the city over the course of the week: to Union Station for the National Symphony Orchestra, to Southwest’s arts club Blind Whino for the Albany Symphony’s new-music ensemble; to THEARC in Southeast to hear the Fort Worth Symphony’s wonderful bilingual “Peter and the Wolf,” with dancers from the Texas Ballet Theater.

(For the record, my 6-year-old son, who can be a hard sell, was riveted by “Peter and the Wolf” and gave it an emphatic thumbs-up.)

After the Fort Worth Symphony’s opening concert (which I reviewed last week), the Albany Symphony under David Alan Miller showed its bent for new music with 2 1/2-hour program that included three concertos by established American composers: Joan Tower, with her contrasting piano concert “Still/Rapids”; Michael Torke, with his muscular, intense, yet somehow slightly anodyne “Three Manhattan Bridges” (with Joyce Yang the impressive pianist in both); and Michael Daugherty, whose mellifluous tuba concerto “Reflections on the Mississippi” has become a showpiece for the remarkable tuba player Carol Jantsch. Arguably stealing the show, though, was an endearing piece for youth chorus and orchestra about the Erie Canal, which filled

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