John Adams is regarded as the musical voice of America – certainly when it comes to contemporary classical music. The artist, who was born in Massachusetts and now lives in California, is Composer in Residence for the 2016/2017 season. In this capacity, he will present himself in the course of the season not only as a composer with some of his most important works, but also live before Berlin audiences as a conductor on the podium of the orchestra and he will work together with the students of the Orchestra Academy.
Brilliant, energetic, humorous
“Two things particularly excited me about John’s music,” says Sir Simon Rattle, who has enjoyed to a decades-long artistic friendship with the composer. “One was that it always seemed to be moving forward in space, that I would imagine while listening to it that I was in a light aircraft flying rather fast, close to the ground. The other thing is that in almost all of his best pieces, there’s a mixture of ecstasy and sadness.” After studying at Harvard University, John Adams received the decisive impetus for his musical language from the minimalists Philip Glass and Steve Reich whose style intrigued, inspired and impressed him – but he never entirely adopted their ritual, monochrome musical language. As a result, Adams' works have the suggestive appeal of minimalist music, but at the same time are brilliant, energetic, visionary and always shows humour. According to Adams, his concern was not the dialectical juxtaposition of contrasting themes and motifs but rather a continuous process of transformation: “The formal idea with my music is that something appears on the event horizon, and then it increases in importance as it begins to dominate the screen, and then it passes you and it’s gone.”
Between time and space
Adams' Residency begins with concerts as part of Musikfest Berlin, where he conducts his 1985 orchestral work Harmonielehre, a tribute to the music theories of Arnold Schoenberg, Heinrich Schenker and Hugo Riemann, plus the German premiere of the dramatic symphony for violin and orchestra Sheherazade.2 with Leila Josefowicz as the soloist. In addition to works such as Short Ride in a Fast Machine, Lollapalooza and City Noir, which are integrated into the orchestra’s concert programmes, Sir Simon Rattle will conduct the Passion oratorio The Gospel According to the Other Mary to a libretto by the director Peter Sellars drawn from texts from the Bible, medieval mysticism and writings of women's rights activists, and survivors of the Holocaust – a both inter-denominational and timeless approach to the Passion of Christ. As Composer in Residence, John Adams will work with the students of the Orchestra Academy, with which he will prepare works by Andrew Norman, Timo Andres and Osvaldo Golijov in addition to his Chamber Symphony. Finally, together with the pianist Majella Stockhausen and Holger Groschopp, he will introduce Hallelujah Junction for two pianos in a pre-concert talk. The education programme will also explore the work of the American artist in two creative projects.