<< -- 2 -- Malcolm Miller NAÏVE AND SENTIMENTAL MUSIC
The simple guitar and harp chords that 'accompany' the idée
fixe oboe and flute melody of the first movement, gradually become a
complex web of accents and cross accents, a fluctuating tapestry of stratified
rhythms. The piece combines these cybernetic minimal processes with a classical
sense of form, the first movement articulated in three large waves and recapitulation
of a central idée fixe melody. The second is a three-part
lullaby and the finale a moto perpetuo in gradual crescendo. The
use of a long breathed melody or 'idée fixe' is new to
Adams' pure minimalism, which, as in the slow movement, usually is
based on simple figures rather than tunes. In the first movement the oboe
introduces the melody, quasi-ironic in its soupy neo-Romanticism, almost
crass except that it avoids predictability, and is counterpointed. Yet the
main interest is in the galvanising surges of energy as the rhythmic polyphony
and shifting patterns build, with a Stravinskian blend of wildness and subtlety,
to memorable climaxes.
The slow movement begins with a seemingly defiant gesture, a simple falling
triad which then continues to trace the arpeggio. Played on the violins
in a slow regularity, as a type of ground bass, it is combined with an expressive
short phrase on the guitar, and eerie sustained resonances of bowed percussion.
This timbral colouring evokes a contrast between the 'naïve'
Coplandesque Americanism with exotic sonorities, again contrasted by dramatic
orchestral gestures in a vivid exchange of triads in the middle section.
One of the most evocative effects is the final hushed return of the strings'
theme, with pianissimo brass chords.
The finale is perhaps predictably frothy and effervescent, yet here again
demonstrating Adams's mastery of the orchestra, his imaginative palette
and ability to generate exciting continuities in flux. It was not so much
the sheer volume of the final climax that was energising, rather the brilliance
of the rhythmic counterpoints based on simple gestures -- with the final
trumpet tones the piece came to an abrupt halt, as if the composer had merely
run out of ink. Naïve and Sentimental it was not; rather, the piece
as a whole affirmed the continued power and beauty of Adams's distinctive
Copyright © 8 September 2001
Malcolm Miller, London, UK
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