The young composers were 24 year-old Timothy Andres and a decade or so older Payton MacDonald. And while both presented pieces that were noteworthy in many ways, overall their music went mostly to prove how much influence Adams’ own work is having on a whole generation of younger American composers. In fact, you might not have even noticed that all the work on Tuesday wasn’t attributable to the more elder statesmen if it wasn’t for Adams' own piece, which provided that missing element of authenticity. Andres offered two works, How can I live in your world of ideas? for solo piano and Nightjar for chamber-sized orchestra. Ideas was originally written for two pianos with a plaintive lyrical line being repeatedly interrupted by a more obstinate and aggressive one. Andres later condensed the two parts into one. I think it may have worked better in the original context in that the intrusions by the second bit of material seemed to more clearly lie in wait than come out of nowhere in this single player format, which the composer preformed himself. Nightjar is inspired by birdsong, not the soaring celestial kind, but a more earth-bound variety populated by specimens from the New England wilderness. It was pleasant, in an Adams-channeling-Messiaen way.
MacDonald’s Cowboy Tabla/Cowboy Raga was the more intriguing of the young composers’ pieces on the program. A percussionist by training, MacDonald has fashioned a thirty minute or so single movement work that functioned as a not-quite concerto for a series of percussion instruments, found and otherwise, fashioned to reproduce the effect of an Indian tabla. Some electronic loops and augmentation are added when MacDonald switches from the ersatz tabla to a marimba in the second part of the work. The effect is to maintain some of the more hypnotic elements of South Asian musical traditions in a Western context and, again, there was this feeling of a post-Minimalist lyricism that strongly brought Adams’ own music to mind. The crowd reponded quite warmly to something that clearly grew on the listener over time.
In the end, though, it was Adams' own show, and he led the L.A. Philharmonic new music group through the frenzy and frolic of his second chamber symphony. He nearly danced along as he conducted the group, yet, while I enjoyed the piece very much, I can’t say I had strong feelings about it either way. It was undoubtedly the more intimate and playful Adams at work here as opposed to the one associated with the grand and dramatic gestures of his works for orchestra or the stage. Lucky for us, there is a fine example of that latter composer waiting just around the Tuesday. Adams is certainly making a case for how he’s casting his own long shadow in the musical world.
Labels: LA Philharmonic 08/09
Theater of Voices
Royal Opera House
Massenet Don Quichotte
Mariinsky Opera Orch
Berlin RIAS Chamber Chorus