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NAÏVE AND SENTIMENTAL MUSIC

MALCOLM MILLER attends the London première of John Adams' most recent and largest orchestral work

 

An exciting revival of the propulsive patterning of minimalist music was heard at the Royal Albert Hall on 6 September 2001, in a Prom that featured the London première of Naïve and Sentimental Music by John Adams, one of the foremost exponents of the minimalist school. The work was conducted superbly by the composer, here making his début with the BBC Symphony Orchestra in a programme that also included a French selection of arrangements: Ravel's delicately hued Alborada del grazioso, Debussy's subtle colouring of Satie's Gymnopédies and Debussy's Le Livre de Baudelaire, in Adams' own colourful, evocative version, sung exquisitely by the soprano Dame Felicity Lott. With their hints of Wagnerian, Straussian and even Schoenbergian orchestration, and Felicity Lott's pure, ravishing timbre, especially in the highest registers, the arrangement was enthralling, each song applauded enthusiastically.

Adams' early Harmonium formed part of the first night of the Proms. In more recent years, Adams had moved away from the psychedelic effects of process music, to a broader, Sibelius-influenced lyricism. His latest, and largest orchestral work to date, Naïve and Sentimental Music, marked a return to the earlier minimalist style of Reich and Glass yet enriched with a lyrical impulse. The title is derived from Schiller's 1795 treatise on poetry, and alludes to aesthetic stances. Yet the three movement symphony is neither naïve nor sentimental, displaying throughout sophisticated rhythmic polyphony and phasing, guided by a sure sense of textural variety and transformation. Indeed throughout, what is most impressive is the organic thread of development whereby simple pulse patterns are constantly transformed.

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Copyright © 8 September 2001 Malcolm Miller, London, UK

 

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BASIL RAMSEY WRITES ABOUT THE BBC PROMS

VISIT JOHN ADAMS' WEBSITE

VISIT THE BBC PROMS WEBSITE

 

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