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Abbreviations (PDF)


Boosey & Hawkes (Hendon Music)

This work is available from Boosey & Hawkes for the world.


World Premiere
Barbican, London
London Symphony Orchestra / Simon Rattle
Composer's Notes

Frenzy is an 18-minute orchestra work that passes through the various figurative states of the term as defined in the OED: "agitation or disorder of the mind, likened to madness; a state of delirious fury, enthusiasm; a wild folly, distraction, a crazy notion, a mania for something." For me, "frenzy" sums up the feeling, at times overwhelming, of contemplating the current world around us, especially as it is imagined in our daily doses of digital news and information, much of which we consume without regard to its subversive and subconscious influence on our mood.

One of the "crazy notions" for me (and something as old as Haydn but new to my work) is a mania for the development of unique melodic ideas, a technique for which the Germans have two vivid terms: Fortspinnung and Durchführung. Starting with a brief quote from a moment in my most recent opera, Antony and Cleopatra, I take the motivic material through an extended hall of mirrors, transforming it, twisting it, turning it, reshaping it, remodeling it. Sometimes the tiniest of rhythmic motives take over, frenetically dominating the foreground and then receding, giving way to contrasting ideas.

Formally, Frenzy is also a kind of "short symphony," encompassing in a relatively brief duration a variegated yet unified symphonic structure.

And, despite the title, the piece is not without moments of tranquility and good humor, which I believe befits the work's dedication to my longtime friend Simon Rattle, an incomparable musician, a deeply compassionate human and, as ever, an enthusiastic interpreter of my music.

-John Adams

Press Quotes

Daily Telegraph
"Adams’s new piece expressed a single state of breathless agitation across nearly 20 minutes."
"a tense nocturnal chase, with a touch of film noir glamour"

Financial Times
"... it is so tautly argued, so packed with tension and incident, that it quickly adds up to a major statement of intent."
"Adams’s ability to keep the same ideas spinning forward with no loss of momentum is gripping."

"a musically fearless response to the insanities of today’s world"
"His trademark high energy and glistening colours [...] are all there"


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