So how did the Adams go?

Thanks for asking. It went pretty well.

As I mentioned a few days ago, we’re doing the John Adams Chamber Symphony this week, with Nicholas McGegan conducting. Most of us had the same reaction on first seeing the parts as I did, which was despair at ever being able to play it at the marked tempi. But it’s amazing what hard work can do. And the fact that Nic didn’t insist on the marked tempi made a big difference as well.

McGegan is known primarily as a Baroque expert, but immersion in Baroque ideas of rhetoric is quite useful in doing a piece like the Adams, which was to some extent inspired by cartoons. So, all in all, I think the piece came off pretty well. The audience certainly liked it, and it’s an older-skewing crowd on Friday mornings – not an audience that loves new music.

I’m still not convinced by the piece. It reminds me of how the French used to call Napoleon "Teacher of Energy." The piece has got plenty of energy. I don’t find it to have a lot of heart. And, not surprisingly, the balance issues are virtually insurmountable. There’s a reason that the ratio of strings to everyone else in a full orchestra is 2 to 1. Six winds, 3 brass, 2 percussion, and a Kurzweil are more than a match for 4 poor solo string players.

It’s also amazing how accurately the tempo markings in each movement are calculated to make at least one person’s part just a shade beyond unplayable in every movement – even the slow movement.

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2 Responses to “So how did the Adams go?”

  1. Charles Noble Says:

    I’ve been working up the part in case the principal gets hit by a bus or something similar, and the last movement is what kills my hand – those crazy alberti bass lines that cause my hand to cramp up into a claw-like shape when they repeat longer than two or three bars…hate ’em!

  2. Robert Levine Says:

    “those crazy alberti bass lines that cause my hand to cramp up into a claw-like shape when they repeat longer than two or three bars…hate ’em!”

    Yup. In my case my mind cramps up at least as much as does my hand.

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