Friday, June 07, 2013

John Adams: Violin Concerto and "Shaker Loops"

I followed up on the May 22 Library of Congress concert honoring composer John Adams by purchasing a Nonesuch CD of two of his important works.  The main course is the 1993 Violin Concerto, with Giddon Kreme as violinist, and the London Symphony conducted by Kent Nagano.  The other work  is “Shaker Loops,” originally composed in 1977m transcribed for string orchestra in 1983.

The Violin Concerto (34 minutes) starts with a rhapsodic firs t movement marked merely as quarter-note at 78.  Code that into Sibelius!  The slow movement is a Chaconne, “Body through which the dream flows”, and a Toccare (toccata) for the finale.

The music is built in cycles and little motives, and the finale reminds one a bit of the finale of the Barber Violin Concerto (which I have heard on a plane in in-flight entertainment).  The violin pretty much carries the show; there is no sense of back-and-forth with the orchestra as in more classical violin concertos.

  

Adams describes the four movements of his “Shaker Loops” (24 minutes) as an expansion of minimalism.  The movements are called “Shaking and Trembling”, “Hymning Slews”, :Loops and Verses”, and “A Final Shaking”.  The effects are definitely replicated in the string playing. The loop idea is tied to the idea of "I-ness" and identity, as in the book "I Am a Strange Loop" (Books blog. June 1).  


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