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John Adams at Carta Blanca festival in Madrid

(May 2014)

The largest Spanish retrospective of John Adams's music to date was presented by the Spanish National Orchestra in its Carta Blanca festival in Madrid.

John Adams travelled to Spain in February for this year’s Carta Blanca festival, devoted to his music and presented by the Spanish National Orchestra at the Auditorio Nacional in Madrid. This was not only the largest retrospective of his music to be mounted in the country to date but also Adams’s Spanish conducting debut.

Highlights were three capacity concerts featuring the Spanish premiere of Absolute Jest with the orchestra joined by the Attacca Quartet, together with Harmonielehre [published by AMP]. Living in California has brought Adams to have a special interest in Hispanic and Latin American culture, and he provided introductions from the stage in Spanish for the audience.

A further Adams orchestral concert at Carta Blanca featured the Doctor Atomic Symphony and Slonimsky’s Earbox conducted by Joana Carneiro. Chamber events included the Attacca Quartet in Adams’s String Quartet and John’s Book of Alleged Dances, and a piano programme by Ralph van Raat featured American Berserk. Two films were screened at the festival: Penny Woolcock’s powerful version of The Death of Klinghoffer and I am Love starring Tilda Swinton which has a soundtrack built from Adams’s music. The composer took part in a round-table discussion and Carta Blanca ended with an educational event with music by students inspired by Adams’s own compositions.

“…a rich orchestrator, a neo-romantic with an effusive message, a post-minimalist capable of working beyond this system (and various others) with ease and eloquence. Listening to Adams was a necessity that has now been met with this festival series.”

“… Adams’s String Quartet helped to dispel any uncertainty about the future of music in the 21st century. Based on an advanced minimalism, and assuming the inheritance of the best American music, the composer displays a wide range of resources to envelop the listener and to embark on a fascinating sonic journey. The audience responded with cheers as rarely heard for recent compositions.”
El Pais

Spanish audiences will experience more Adams next February with the first Spanish production of Doctor Atomic at the Teatro Maestranza in Seville, employing the recent Karlsruhe staging by Yuval Sharon. This season brought French stage premieres for Doctor Atomic at the Opéra national du Rhin in Strasbourg and A Flowering Tree at the Châtelet in Paris, and the Irish premiere of Nixon in China in Dublin. Operatic highlights next season include the Metropolitan Opera’s first staging of The Death of Klinghoffer and a Peter Sellars production of The Gospel According to the Other Mary at English National Opera in London.

The next John Adams recording on Nonesuch, due for release in June, is a coupling of City Noir and the Saxophone Concerto. Both works provide extensive solo parts for Timothy McAllister and feature David Robertson on the rostrum with the St Louis Symphony. Following performances in Sydney, Baltimore, St. Louis and Milwaukee, the Saxophone Concerto travels on to the Cabrillo Festival, São Paulo, the BBC Proms in London, Liverpool and Miami over the coming half year, all with McAllister as soloist.

> Further information on Work: Absolute Jest

Photo: Margaretta Mitchell

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