Tuesday 30 January 2007

LSO and John Adams at the Barbican

At the interval of Sunday's LSO concert at the Barbican D. and I had divergent opinions of the music. It was the first of 2 John Adams concerts that the LSO are doing as part of a mini-season. Adams had just conducted Slonimsky's Ear Box and Dharma at Big Sur, this latter with Leila Josefowicz playing the electric violin.

D. had found the works attractive and entertaining, whereas I had wanted something more. They had undeniable surface brilliance and attractiveness of construction and Josefowicz's playing had been nothing short of brilliant. But the solo part is designed to sound free and improvised whilst actually being highly notated, and I felt that Adams should have trusted his soloists more. This might have led to the missing ingredients, depth and passion. Though the music was played with passion I did not feel that it expressed it, though they were full of brilliant surfaces the very construction techniques that Adams uses means that he does not allow you underneath and the very tightness of the orchestration does not allow for much additional expression from the players.

I had been hoping that this depth might come from On the Transmigration of Souls, the work in the 2nd half. But having the faintly embarrassing texts projected on screens, having the audience 'surrounded' by a sound installation of which we could only hear half and the naive nature of the texts themselves, all these contributed to the rather ephemeral nature of the piece. It was slightly moving and undoubtedly well performed, but it was too highly manicured. The work commemorates a perfectly gut-wrenching event and Adams failed to produce a work which matches that, it was too well-behaved, to neatly manicured and failed to take risks. Give me Nixon or Klinghoffer any day.

On the subject of trusting performers, Adams made an interesting comment in the programme notes. The Big Sur piece was originally written using just intonation, but at the first rehearsals Adams discovered that it is impossible for 80+ musicians to agree on the exact intervals used in the just intonation. The results could perhaps have been creative chaos, but instead Adams reverted to standard mean-tone intonation for most of the parts.

Technorati tag:

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous11:28 pm

    If you had heard Tracy Silverman's performance at the Dahrma's U.K. premier at the Proms concert with the BBC orchestra, you might have found it more to your liking. Mr. Silverman's Jazz backround made it hard for listeners to believe that he had not,indeed,improvized much of the violin part written (with his collaboration) for him by Adams."It don't mean a thing, if it ain't got that swing."


Popular Posts this month