This evening, NPR had a broadcast Gustavo Dudamel's concert with the LA Phil, in a program of Mahler Symphony No. 1 and a new John Adams piece. While I do not know how worthwhile it will be, I am going to present my thoughts in more or less real-time, as part of my ongoing investigation into how people listen.
All the pre-concert talking heads are dancing around one central issue: is Dudamel this generation's Lenny Bernstein? Every account I have ever heard of both conductors sounds the same: charismatic, enthusiastic, engages non-traditional demographics. I suppose time will tell... A good friend saw him live last year in Italy, so I have it in dependable authority how genuinely stunning it is to see him live.
New Adams- 3 movements, first 2 attacca. Why do I love every Adams piece I hear (like Cleveland doing "Guide to Strange Places," which is for some reason not available on commercial recording)? I love how Adams integrates the piano into his orchestral textures. And something new for saxophonists! This is not as good as the other famous homagé to the City of Lights, "LA Woman" by the Doors, but still good (I kid). Some of his orchestral textures sound so much like band music, and I don't know why... the use of the winds? Or maybe its the scoring of the winds, massed in triadic clumps... hard to tell. This is VERY different from the last piece Adams wrote for Disney Hall and the LA Phil, "The Dharma at Big Sur," which is one of my favorite pieces of music (a concerto for 5-string electric violin? Sign me up!). What does it say about Dudamel and the Orchestra's decision to have Adams as their composer-in-residence. I clearly enjoy Adams' music, but it's a very Disney decision, safe and not too threatening. Of course, the NY Phil is commissioning new works this season too, so maybe this is a trend? Till people realize, like they did back in the '50s with the Louisville Orchestra commissioning project, that you get a lot of shit that way too...
This piece sounds like "typical" Adams that I've heard over the last 3 years... driving rhythms and changing meters, primarily sonorous textures, extended consonant harmonies, expanded instrumentation, etc. It (so far) lacks the darker bite of "...Strange Places." Oh, great sonority going into what I imagine is mvt. 2. This is interesting. Even with the trombone solo. There are a lot of solos in this piece. Adams' slow movements are, in my opinion, the best parts of the piece. His rhythmic excitement is some of the best non-film/ non-dramatic out there, but I get the sense that he really lets himself go in his slow movements. Maybe its how he handles time... The orchestra sounds great, really well rehearsed. Adams gave them a piece that is fairly easy to shape, but its interesting that Dudamel is conducting new music. I know its part of the legacy of the LA Phil, but I think it's very significant for the hottest new conductor to be actively working with new works, even if they're by established composers. Sometimes the percussion is a bit much, and sometimes the piece sounds very band-y/ big band-y. And that's the second Adams piece I've heard that's had an odd ending...
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I'm probably going to stop as I have an abstract due tomorrow. And if they take one more encore, it'll be 11:30 before intermission ends. I will probably post other blogs/ reviews of the concert in addition to my thoughts, which (as I re-read), are more about issues than the music. A quick note on the intermission interviews: any conductor that can make a trumpet player sit up and pay attention during rehearsal must have some divine grace (right, Nick?)
UPDATE: I got sucked into the beginning of the Mahler. Quite possibly the best version I have ever heard. Very organic, such a natural way of developing and letting the music work itself out. Incredible. This will be broadcast 10/21 on PBS's "Great Performances," so catch it!