J. Adams, City Noir (inter alia), Los Angeles Philharmonic, G. Dudamel (2009)
The highlight was the chance to hear Adams conduct his relatively new piece, City Noir, composed for and premiered by Gustavo Dudamel and the Los Angeles Philharmonic in 2009 and performed here by the NSO for the first time. Adams conducted the piece last summer at the Proms, and he tried to wring every ounce of energy he could from it here. Taking the microphone, he described the work as an homage to Hollywood and film noir scores, but where film composers have to write compactly, to create an entire atmosphere in a brief time, Adams luxuriates in each texture, seeming to do less with more, as it were, much of it forgettable. One could imagine stock movie scenes corresponding to each section: the big sweep of the opening for the opening credits; a jazz section with hot saxophone solo, drums, and pizzicato bass setting the tone; a tender theme for violins con sordini for the entrance of the heroine; a murder in the dark of night in the second movement, against a backdrop of sirens and wailing horns; a California cool trumpet solo and the chug-chug-chugging of a locomotive in the third movement. With such a large orchestra, it seemed like the score should have had greater variation of color, but there was a busy sameness to it -- for all the percussion crammed at the back (20 tuned gongs!), one noticed it almost not at all.
Anne Midgette, John Adams roots himself in tradition, but on his own terms (Washington Post, May 31)
This concert repeats tonight and tomorrow night (May 31 and June 1), in the Kennedy Center Concert Hall.