John Adams: Perspectives Presented at Kennedy Center in May

Classic Arts Features   John Adams: Perspectives Presented at Kennedy Center in May
The works of composer John Adams come into focus at the Kennedy Center this month when the National Symphony Orchestra and the Center's Fortas Chamber Music Concerts series present John Adams: Perspectives.


In May, the National Symphony Orchestra and the Kennedy Center Fortas Chamber Music Concerts series present John Adams: Perspectives, a series devoted to the works of the Pulitzer Prize _winning American composer.

One of America's most admired and respected composers, John Adams is a musician of enormous range and technical command. His works, both operatic and symphonic, stand out among contemporary classical compositions for their depth of expression, brilliance of sound, and the profoundly humanist nature of their themes. Over the past 25 years, Adams's music has played a decisive role in turning the tide of contemporary musical aesthetics away from academic modernism and toward a more expansive, expressive language, entirely characteristic of his New World surroundings.

For the first week of two National Symphony Orchestra programs conducted by Adams, bass-baritone Eric Owens: "consistently charismatic, theatrically and vocally" (New York Magazine): sings The Wound-Dresser, a setting for baritone and orchestra of a Walt Whitman poem inspired by experieÔ_nces in a field hospital during the Civil War. The BBC calls the work "powerful," while the New York Times hailed it as "extraordinary."

The program on May 13 _15 opens with a Suite from Copland's Billy the Kid and also features Barber's Adagio for Strings and Elgar's Enigma Variations. On Thursday, May 13, join John Adams, Eric Owens, and NSO Director of Artistic Planning Nigel Boon immediately following the concert for a free AfterWords discussion.

The following week, virtuoso violinist Leila Josefowicz, a frequent collaborator with John Adams, comes back to the Center May 20 _22 to play his Dharma at Big Sur, "a wondrous concerto for amplified violin and orchestra [that] is a lyrical, ecstatic homage to the West Coast beat culture of Jack Kerouac" (The Chicago Tribune). For her performances of Dharma, Josefowicz went to Birmingham, England, and had precise measurements of her Stradivarius painstakingly recorded. Then a special six-string electric violin called the "Violectra" was built to correspond to her acoustic one.

In a Washington Post article, Josefowicz calls Dharma "an incredible piece: it just overtakes you. It's so daring, and it just builds and builds and builds to an incredible, emotional climax. By the end, you think the hall's going to explode."

A second Adams work concludes the concert, the Doctor Atomic Symphony, drawn from his opera of the same name, a modern Faust story depicting the final hours before the detonation of the first A bomb. The New York Times said of the symphony, "The score invites you to hear the music: driving passages with pounding timpani, quizzically restrained lyrical flights, bursts of skittish fanfares: on its own terms, apart from its dramatic context."

The program opens with The Four Sea Interludes from Britten's Peter Grimes and also includes, as part of the Center's Focus on Russia, Stravinsky's Feu d'Artifice. On Thursday, May 20, join John Adams, Leila Josefowicz, and NSO Director of Artistic Planning Nigel Boon immediately following the concert for a free AfterWords discussion.

For her Fortas Chamber Music Concerts program on May 9, virtuoso violinist Jennifer Koh, who the New York Times says possesses "equal measures of energy and velvety richness," performs John Adams's Road Movies with pianist Thomas Sauer in the Terrace Theater. The New York Times praised the "freewheeling violin and piano work" of Adams's"traveling music." The piece has been called "the sonic equivalent of watching landscapes through a car's windshield."

Koh also takes part in the Washington premiere of Esa-Pekka Salonen's Lachen Verlernt, an audio and video piece incorporating the work of videographer Tal Rosner.

The balance of the program includes Bach's Partita for solo violin, a work that puts Koh's precise yet emotional ability on display, and Lou Harrison's fleshy, exotic, and diverse Grand Duo with Sauer, a member of the Mannes Trio.


Visit the Kennedy Center for tickets.

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