John Adams at 75: birthday celebrations in Europe
With John Adams’s 75th birthday falling on 15 February, European celebrations are launched in the New Year by the Tonhalle in Zürich and the Royal Concertgebouw in Amsterdam.
The Tonhalle Orchestra in Zürich celebrates the 75th birthday of John Adams with a major focus on his music running between 13 January and 25 March. The series, entitled The Cosmos of John Adams, encompasses 12 works with five Swiss premieres across 13 concert dates, with the rostrum shared between Robert Trevino, Jaap van Zweden, David Zinman, Paavo Jarvi and the composer himself.
In a video interview Paavo Järvi, Music Director of the Tonhalle Orchestra, comments: “John Adams is one of the great living composers and without doubt the leading figure in American music. Having him as our Artist in Focus is a great honour as he is one of the exceptional musicians alive today. As the Tonhalle is committed to tradition but also innovation, we need to keep our finger on the pulse of new music, and nobody is a greater representative of this than John Adams. He was one of the founding fathers of minimalism but his music has now evolved and taken a new direction.”
Adams repertoire in Zürich gets underway with City Noir (13/14 January), the Violin Concerto with Ilya Gringolts (9-11 Feb) and Harmonielehre (9-10 March). The composer conducts an all-Adams programme with Short Ride in a Fast Machine, the Swiss premiere of Must the Devil Have All the Good Tunes? with pianist Vikungur Olafsson and his major symphonic score Naïve and Sentimental Music (17/18 March). A Literature and Music morning event combines John’s Book of Alleged Dances with a selection of texts in which listening, dancing and art play a major role (20 March). The final programme conducted by Järvi includes four Swiss premieres: My Father Knew Charles Ives, Slonimsky’s Earbox, Lollapalooza and I Still Dance plus Tromba Lontana (23-25 March).
> Visit the Tonhalle Orchestra website
A week after the launch of the Zürich series, the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra in Amsterdam gives a pair of performances of Adams’s Violin Concerto with Leila Josefowicz as soloist with conductor Susanna Mälkki (20/21 January). Other birthday highlights in Europe include Marin Alsop conducting Fearful Symmetries with the NDR Elbphilharmonie in Hamburg (18/19 February) and an Iceland Symphony programme conducted by the composer with Vikungur Olafsson playing Must the Devil Have All the Good Tunes? coupled with Harmonielehre (5 May). Olafsson travels to Sweden for further performances of the concerto with the Gothenburg Symphony conducted by Santtu-Matias Rouvali (18-20 May).
Major Adams birthday features in the USA are launched on 6 January by the Seattle Symphony including Must the Devil Have All the Good Tunes? with pianist Jeremy Denk and the composer on the rostrum (6-8 January). The same day sees the New York Philharmonic showcasing the Saxophone Concerto with soloist Branford Marsalis and conductor Susanna Malkki and the Baltimore Symphony performing The Dharma at Big Sur with violinist Chloë Hanslip and Ryan Bancroft. Adams and Jeremy Denk travel to Cleveland for further performances of Must the Devil Have All the Good Tunes? (3/5/6 February), while the Cincinnati Symphony and John Storgårds perform City Noir (12/13 February). US highlights in June include Absolute Jest in Milwaukee under Ken-David Masur and Must the Devil Have All the Good Tunes? with Vikingur Olafsson and Esa-Pekka Salonen in San Francisco.
In 2022 Nonesuch Records will release a definitive 40-disc John Adams box set entitled Collected Works.
> Further information on Work: Must the Devil Have All the Good Tunes?
Photo: Vern Evans