Reprinted from late editions of yesterday's Globe.
When the playwright and polemicist Lillian Hellman chose ''Pentimento" for the title of her memoir in 1973, an obscure technical term from the art world entered the general language. It means ''an underlying, older image, as in a painting, that shows through."
There are works of music that can be described in terms of pentimento -- Luciano Berio's ''Rendering," for example, or John Harbison's ''November 19, 1828," both with fragments of Schubert as the underlying images. Jonathan Dawe's ''The Flowering Arts," premiered by James Levine and the Boston Symphony Orchestra Thursday night, is another example. Commissioned in 2004 and finished last summer, ''The Flowering Arts" was moved from next season into this week's program when a new work by Leon Kirchner was not completed in time.
The piece takes its title and some substance from the opera ''Les Arts Florissants" (1685-6) by Marc-Antoine Charpentier that lent its name to one of today's leading early-music ensembles. Music depicting some of Charpentier's allegorical characters (Music, Poetry, Painting, and Architecture) is the basis, along with a scenario paralleling Charpentier's: The arts are under attack from Discord.
Dawe's intricate contemporary overlay depicts three more centuries of attack; some things never change. The composer's technique is complex and his own, and he describes some of it in a public-unfriendly program note; Levine's own comment in the program book is more direct; he writes, ''. . . it's a piece that will be fun for the audience."
It is fun to follow the story in music and to hear Dawe's modern take on ancient procedures like the Passacaglia. One can imagine a performance less dogged and more fantastical than the premiere; it will probably sound that way by Tuesday, when Levine and the orchestra have two more performances under their belts. There was a respectful hand for Dawe, who, at 40, is the youngest of the living composers Levine has championed here.
The rest of the program featured a signature piece of Levine's, Schumann's Fourth Symphony, and Berlioz's ''Symphonie fantastique," a signature piece of BSO's, which the ensemble could probably play from memory during a power failure.
The Schumann made a nice complement to Dawe -- both pieces are about trying to connect what is chimerical, imaginative, and spontaneous with the stern disciplines of composition. Levine led a performance notable for detail and propulsion, but occasionally sounding excessively driven.
The BSO could probably not have played this particular ''Fantastique" in a blackout because Levine was busy scrubbing away at tradition and revealing the original character underneath. The waltz was full of teasing allure, the scene in the country full of patient, pastoral calm. There was beautiful work from Robert Sheena, English horn, and Keisuke Wakao, oboe, and many others, including Thomas Martin in a demented clarinet solo.
One brass attack in the witches' sabbath was so savagely surprising it terrified me, although I've known it was coming since I was a kid. The end couldn't have been more exciting if Leonard Bernstein had leapt two feet in the air; Levine merely rose a few inches from his chair. The public's response? An animal roar of release.