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John Adams's City Noir a "Knockout" in Los Angeles

John Adams propelled Gustavo Dudamel into his inaugural season at the Los Angeles Philharmonic with City Noir, a piece Mark Swed of Los Angeles Times calls “…Adams’ most demanding symphonic work both for audience and orchestra… .”

Tony Tommasini of The New York Times reports:

 “Making a telling artistic statement, Mr. Dudamel began his tenure conducting the premiere of the new Adams piece, ‘City Noir,’ a bustling, complex 35-minute work in three movements: the final panel in a triptych of orchestral works inspired by what Mr. Adams calls the ‘California experience,’ its ‘landscape and its culture.’ (The first two are ‘El Dorado’ and ‘The Dharma at Big Sur,’ a violin concerto.)”

Mark Swed’s Los Angeles Times review continues:

“Adams describes ‘City Noir’ in his program note as a work inspired by the mysteriously dark Los Angeles of the late ‘40s and ‘50s – Raymond Chandler’s town – and by the film noir of that period. The three-movement symphony begins, as Jack Webb might have said on the LAPD radio series ‘Dragnet,’ with a big stew.

“The first movement, titled ‘The City and Its Double,’ is a swirling panoply of scurrying strings and winds, ominous brass chords, syncopated jazz drumming, along with, typically in Adams, syncopated everything. …I sense something of Schoenberg’s L.A., as well. …

“The second movement, ‘The Song Is for You,’ is softer and, on the surface, sweeter than the first, and jazzy. I heard hints of Gershwin in the horns after a flamboyant saxophone solo (played by Timothy McAllister). But a big, seductive and, yes, also dark trombone solo (a great turn for James Miller) gets under one’s skin.

“The third movement, ‘Boulevard Night,’ begins with gorgeous chords in the strings and winds, given tinkling accompaniment by two harps, piano and celesta (there are no electronics). … Stravinsky pops up here as well in a knockout finale.”

David Mermelstein of the Wall Street Journal notes that City Noir’s climax “…brought the house to its feet. Dudamel embraced Adams, and they both took several bows during the ovation,” at the end of what Tommasini concludes was “…an exceptional and exciting concert by any standard.”

City Noir will return to the Los Angeles Philharmonic program as part of the West Coast, Left Coast festival (a three-week multi-disciplinary festival celebrating California’s distinct musical culture) from November 27–29 at Walt Disney Concert Hall, with further performances on the orchestra’s U.S. tour. Commissioned by the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the London Symphony Orchestra in association with Cité de la Musique-Salle Pleyel, The Eduard van Beinum Foundation at the request of the ZaterdagMatinee, the Dutch Radio Concert Series in the Concertgebouw Amsterdam, and the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, City Noir will enjoy several future performances around the world.

John Adams continues as Creative Chair throughout the next few Los Angeles Philharmonic seasons, serving as Festival Director for West Coast, Left Coast, and overseeing the Green Umbrella series. As part of West Coast, Left Coast, Adams will conduct Leila Josefowicz and the Philharmonic in The Dharma at Big Sur on December 4 and 5.

Visit our global performance calendar to find performances near you: www.boosey.com/performances.

Photo Credit: Margaretta Mitchell

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