My essay for tonight’s program by the Los Angeles Master Chorale. On the menu are some of the great choruses from John Adams’s operas (with brand-new piano transcriptions) and one of his favorite works of all time, Stravinsky’s Les noces.
March 26, 2017 • 12:11 pm Comments Off on Adams & Stravinsky with the LA Master Chorale
February 15, 2017 • 12:00 am Comments Off on Happy 70th Birthday, John Adams!
Today John Adams celebrates his 70th birthday. We have countless reasons to be grateful for what he’s already given the world. And he has so much left to say, as works of more recent vintage like The Gospel According to the Other Mary demonstrate.
You would be forgiven for imagining a clever director had coached a miniature army of body doubles, or that a music-mad bioengineer had disseminated a few clones: John Adams seems to be intercontinentally omnipresent this season—in London, Paris, Berlin, New York, Los Angeles. This month, when he actually reaches the biblical milestone of 70 (February 15), he is right back home, with his music as the centerpiece of a three-weekend celebration by the San Francisco Symphony.
September 17, 2016 • 8:22 am Comments Off on John Adams in Berlin
John Adams has just started his season as artist-in-residence with the Berlin Philharmonic — with a program in which he also makes his debut conducting the Berliners.
July 4, 2016 • 12:48 am Comments Off on Happy Fourth of July!
June 15, 2016 • 11:34 am Comments Off on John Adams’s New Opera
It’s now official: the newest opera from John Adams, Girls of the Golden West, which during the California Gold Rush in the 1850s, with a libretto by Peter Sellars, will be premiered in the fall of 2017 at San Francisco Opera. SFO has co-commissioned the work with Dallas Opera, Dutch National Opera, and Teatro La Fenice.
Here’s the company’s press release:
SAN FRANCISCO (June 14, 2016) — San Francisco Opera General Director David Gockley today announced the Company will present the world premiere commission of Girls of the Golden West, a new opera set during the 1850s California Gold Rush, by the internationally-renowned team of composer John Adams and director/librettist Peter Sellars. Presented at the War Memorial Opera House for seven performances opening November 2017, San Francisco Opera will announce casting, conductor, design team and ticket information in January 2017 as part of the Company’s 2017–18 repertory season.
March 18, 2016 • 4:55 pm 1
John Adams with the Seattle Symphony (photo credit: Chris Bennion)
Here’s my Seattle Times review of last night’s Seattle Symphony concert with John Adams at the podium:
The chance to hear a great living composer conducting his own music is rarity enough. But the new work John Adams has brought with him is rarer still: a composition created in the here-and-now that shows every sign of becoming part of the canon.
March 12, 2016 • 10:08 am Comments Off on John Adams Conducts Scheherazade.2 at Seattle Symphony
The cover story of the weekend section of The Seattle Times‘ is my feature on John Adams. He’ll be in town this coming week to conduct the Seattle Symphony in the West Coast premiere of his brilliant new violin concerto/dramatic symphony Scheherazade.2:
Some people feel like they’ve missed out because Mozart and Beethoven lived in a different century. But they’re overlooking the great artists who are in our midst today — composers writing music that is just as meaningful, and just as likely to last.
July 4, 2015 • 11:30 am Comments Off on A Fourth with Ives
Celebrate American music! And you can’t do much better than Tilson Thomas and the San Francisco Symphony for this rep.
As Charles Ives impishly recalled about this third movement from his Holidays Symphony :
I did what I wanted to, quite sure that the thing would never be played, although the uneven measures that look so complicated in the score are mostly caused by missing a beat, which was often done in parades. In the parts taking off explosions, I worked out combinations of tones and rhythms very carefully by kind of prescriptions, in the way a chemical compound which makes explosions would be made.
And for good measure:
May 22, 2015 • 12:44 pm Comments Off on New Music from Bryce Dessner
Getting commissioned to write a percussion piece to be paired with your mentor David Lang’s the so-called laws of nature is a pretty impressive vote of confidence. And the result was Bryce Dessner‘s enchanting Music for Woods and Strings (2013), commissioned by Carnegie Hall.
This piece has just been released on Sō Percussion’s new album. Dessner, also known as the guitarist for The National, describes the “chord stick” process he devised for the work: “Using sticks or violin bows, the players can sound either of two harmonies, or play individual strings, melodies, and drone tremolos.” This “hybrid dulcimer” sound, which he likens to “chord hockets,” shows the inspiration of American folk song tradition in its warmly layered rhythmic counterpoint.
The Los Angeles Philharmonic will premiere Dessner’s latest piece, Quilting, as part of the Next on Grand Festival of contemporary American composers, which has just gotten under way (with John Adams to lead a program on Tuesday.
A couple years ago, Dessner compiled a list of his own favorite contemporary works for BoingBoing, including both Adams’s Shaker Loops and John Luther Adams’s For Lou Harrison. I approve the man’s taste.
April 5, 2015 • 10:16 am 2
For this Easter weekend, you can stream the Good Friday performance of Scottish composer James MacMillan’s St. Luke Passion from King’s College, Cambridge (the compose conducts).
In a recent interview with Boosey & Hawkes, MacMillan speaks about the work:
I’ve always enjoyed a fruitful fascination with the Passion story, and there are deep reasons through history why artists and composers have been attracted to it, right up to our own times. The story is compelling and the images are powerful, prompting a variety of responses. Each time I return to it I try and find different perspectives. Some works are purely instrumental reflections following Haydn’s example, such as my Fourteen Little Pictures for piano trio, or the Triduum of orchestral works written in the mid-90s. Others follow more familiar formats with choir, such as the Seven Last Words from the Cross or the St John Passion.
As to why he chose the narrative found in Luke’s gospel:
My setting of the St John Passion took a particular approach, examining the human drama, and was almost operatic in impact. So returning after a five-year interval I wanted to take an alternative direction. St John stands apart from the other three so-called synoptic Gospel writers who share structure and common material and, of those three, St Luke has a special appeal for me. As well as relating Christ’s life and teachings, Luke is concerned with the idea of the Kingdom of God which points forward to the same author’s Acts of the Apostles. This started me thinking about a more spiritual, inward, and pared-back approach to create a focused work about an hour long.
Meanwhile, here is the incomparable Jordi Savall conducting Bach’s St. Matthew Passion (featuring Le Concert des Nations at the Palau de la Música Catalana, Barcelona).
Not to be missed, even if not specifically Holy Week-related: Bach’s Mass in B minor from Sir John Eliot Gardiner’s recent tour with the English Baroque Soloists and Monteverdi Choir (which included a stop at the Lucerne Easter Festival; this performance is from the Paris Philharmonie.
For good measure, here’s Johann’s son Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach’s cantata on the Resurrection and Ascension of Jesus, Wq240:
The culmination of Mahler’s Symphony No. 2 (“Resurrection”), a composition tailor-made for Leonard Bernstein:
Finally, from John Adams’s The Gospel According to the Other Mary (Act 2, scene 5 (“Burial/Spring – Mary Awakens on the Third Morning”):