John Adams: reviews of The Gospel According to the Other Mary(June 2012)
Adams’s evening-length oratorio was premiered by the Los Angeles Philharmonic in May 2012, and a staged production is presented on an international tour in March 2013
“A masterpiece,” is what the Los Angeles Times calls The Gospel According to the Other Mary, the new evening-length Passion oratorio by John Adams. Premiered by the Los Angeles Philharmonic under the direction of Gustavo Dudamel, the work is among the composer’s largest to date, featuring a full chorus, vocal soloists, and orchestra complete with unique instruments such as the electric bass and cimbalom.
“This is the Gospel told not by Matthew, Mark, Luke or John, but rather according to the other John and Peter, namely the composer and librettists, who present the Passion from the women’s point of view,” continued the Los Angeles Times. The Gospel According to the Other Mary is intended as a companion piece to the nativity oratorio El Niño, a previous John Adams/Peter Sellars collaboration that presented Biblical tales through contemporary verse. Sellars, the librettist, will direct the first staged presentations of The Gospel According to the Other Mary as part of a Los Angeles Philharmonic international tour to Los Angeles, London, Lucerne, Paris and New York, in March 2013.
“Taking on the most monumental narrative in Western civilization, Adams’ part-opera/part Passion is – in subject, meaning, emotion, relevance, historical resonance and musical ambition – huge. The composer has put everything he knows into this score about the final days of Christ, which means he includes some of the most stunning, probing, questing…music of his important career. Adams’ use of the orchestra is multi-tiered, the writing having many, many small solos but also producing an ever changing tapestry of effective atmospheric effects.”
Los Angeles Times
“[The Gospel According to the Other Mary] contains some of the strongest, most impassioned music of Adams’s career…In all, it is a fantastically varied sound-world, running the gamut from the neo-medieval harmonies of the high male voices to the end-times funk of the bass guitar, with the twang of the cimbalom lending a gritty exoticism to almost every page of the score…an immensely potent work, one that may prove pivotal in the composer’s output.”
The New Yorker
“A dozen years ago, composer John Adams and librettist Peter Sellars reinvented the Nativity oratorio with El Niño, a brilliantly innovative work that fused biblical and contemporary texts in revelatory ways. Now they’ve given the piece a fittingly dynamic counterpart. The result, presented in concert in Walt Disney Concert Hall before returning next year in a fully staged version, is by turns fierce and lyrical, a twin meditation on charity and death. And both formally and thematically, it serves as a reply to Bach’s Passions in much the same way that El Niño did for Handel’s Messiah. Adams score works ingenious variations on some of his most memorable musical inventions, while adding plenty of new strains to keep things lively…much of The Gospel finds Adams at his most evocative and inventive.”
San Francisco Chronicle
“The music is teeming and fascinating, maximalist rather than minimalist… Bach’s oratorios are a clear influence here. The piece unwinds in numbers, each of which is given its own set of motifs and sonorities, each a little static package unto itself. There are many extraordinary moments, including the death of Lazarus and three days in the tomb of Jesus (both evoked by otherworldly instrumentals), and too many arias to mention. Lazarus’ da capo aria, ‘Tell me: how is this night,’ was certainly a standout.”
San Francisco Classical Voice
“In rough parallels to Bach’s Passions, Adams writes fugue-like passages, chorale equivalents, dramatic and contemplative arias, and turba (crowd) choruses. But his language is entirely his own, with, powerful motor rhythms and passages of luminous lyricism, achieving a natural textural flow.”
> For further information on The Gospel According to the Other Mary, click here.
> Further information on Work: The Gospel According to the Other Mary
Photo credit: Margaretta Mitchell
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