Yuja Wang took the lid of the boisterous solo piano part in John Adams's new concerto in Los Angeles in March. Must the Devil Have all the Good Tunes? was toured to South Korea and Japan and receives its first European performance at the Edinburgh Festival in August.
John Adams’s new piano concerto, Must the Devil Have all the Good Tunes?, was composed to showcase the distinctive keyboard style of Chinese-born virtuoso Yuja Wang, as heard at the premiere in March with the Los Angeles Philharmonic and Gustavo Dudamel and on tour to Seoul and Tokyo.
Further LA Phil performances with Yuja Wang are planned in the US, Mexico, at the Edinburgh Festival on 4 August and at the Barbican in London on 18 November. The solo part will be taken up by pianists Jeremy Denk and Vikungur Ólafsson and other orchestras in Paris, Amsterdam, St Louis and Seattle next season under the baton of the composer.
“His latest work definitely leans in the trickster direction as per its mischievous title… like Century Rolls, it bristles with a percussive, highly-rhythmic, technically fearsome piano part… an excitable, satisfying, boisterous vehicle for Wang and Dudamel.”
“The piano is constantly busy throughout the 25-plus minutes, and even in the contemplative slow movement, caressed by Adams’s typical sustained strings, there is underlying tension and an impatient desire to get the engines going again. They eventually do in a dotted-rhythm groove that suggests rock ’n’ roll.”
Los Angeles Times
“This is a city piece: all steel girders and glass monoliths, pounding factory rhythms and fatally seductive temptations around every corner — very much the modern-day equivalent of a Lisztian “Totentanz” that Adams has said he was aiming to create… a Prokofiev-style piano concerto, retrofitted with minimalist rhythmic cells, bebop bursts of brass and ironic commentary from a sampled, out-of-tune, honky-tonk piano… driving syncopations and a riot of orchestral color building to a satisfying finish”.
“The central section is one of Adams’s most evocative interludes. The electric bass provides a dark, shadowy bottom to the strings legato expressive sheen, as the piano casts a web of glistening melodic threads up above. But soon the nocturne idyll is broken… and the concerto takes off in a final section of pure energy.”
San Francisco Classical Voice
John Adams’s latest opera, Girls of the Golden West, received its first European performances at Dutch National Opera in February, with the same stellar cast as at its San Francisco premiere in 2017. Adams and librettist/director Peter Sellars have since revised the score and staging and, as the Los Angeles Times noted in Amsterdam, “the opera has come into formidable, inescapable focus. There should be no doubt that Girls of the Golden West is the most powerful opera of the moment.”
“Girls is an outright rejection of the romantic West of Puccini, of the hubris of Manifest Destiny, of all the rosy myths you’ve heard about the Golden State. It is revisionist – or, rather, corrective – American history, a tale of men turning feral as they swarmed California like an invasive species. In many ways, it is also an opera about the present.”
New York Times
John Adams has recently been doubly honoured with the prestigious Erasmus Prize in the Netherlands and the BBVA Frontiers of Knowledge Award in Spain. The composer is currently completing a new orchestral work celebrating Michael Tilson Thomas’s 25 years on the rostrum of the San Francisco Symphony.
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Photo: Vern Evans
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