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Simon Rattle was at the helm for the thrilling world premiere of John Adams’s new orchestral work, Frenzy, which travelled in March with the London Symphony Orchestra from London to Bristol, Dortmund, Luxembourg and Paris.

Frenzy, the new orchestral work by John Adams, was unveiled to acclaim by the London Symphony Orchestra conducted by the score’s dedicatee Simon Rattle in March, with concerts at the Barbican in London, Bristol Beacon, the Konzerthaus in Dortmund, the Philharmonie Luxembourg and the Philharmonie in Paris. Future performances of this ‘short symphony’, exploring themes of contemporary agitation and delirium, are planned by the Los Angeles Philharmonic and Toronto Symphony Orchestra.

Frenzy is an 18-minute orchestral workout, Adams’s most substantial since City Noir in 2009. Steadily building in intensity in the manner of pieces such as Short Ride in a Fast Machine, it takes a theme from his most recent opera, Antony and Cleopatra, as its starting point, and the source of all the musical material that follows. Adams describes it as a “kind of ‘short symphony’, encompassing in a relatively brief duration a variegated yet unified symphonic structure”, yet on first hearing it seemed more showpiece than symphony, and one that Rattle and his orchestra presented quite brilliantly.”
The Guardian

“It’s a symphonic poem of sorts, a challenging, seething orchestral canvas depicting an “agitation or disorder of the mind, likened to madness” – and proved a musically fearless response to the insanities of today’s world.”
The Independent

“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… and moments of uncanny neon-lit stillness. As the panic-stricken final ascent built to a climax, I found myself imagining James Stewart running up that bell-tower in Hitchcock’s Vertigo. You don’t get much more frenzied than that.”
Daily Telegraph

“The work displays the American master's usual seductive sound and sense of colour, his genius for timbre (the passages linking harp, celesta and piano, for example), and his singular imagination for atmosphere, sometimes reminiscent of The Chairman Dances. Rattle is at home in this universe, and the musicians of the LSO are as supple, fluid and, one might say, affable as ever.”

Frenzy may last only 18 minutes, but it is so tautly argued, so packed with tension and incident, that it quickly adds up to a major statement of intent… Plunging straight into a maelstrom, the music is dominated by a handful of motifs which shift around, alternate between instruments, break up into simple rhythms or intervals. Adams’s ability to keep the same ideas spinning forward with no loss of momentum is gripping.”
Financial Times

April brings two new major Adams recordings. The Nonesuch release of his opera Girls of the Golden West, highlighting the lives of women in California during the Gold Rush era, features the Los Angeles Philharmonic under the baton of the composer, with a starry cast including Julia Bullock, Davóne Tines, Hye Jung Lee and Paul Appleby. Marin Alsop’s new Adams collection on Naxos features the ORF Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra in City Noir, Fearful Symmetries and the choreographic interlude Lola Montez Does the Spider Dance which first appeared in Girls of the Golden West.

Marin Alsop is also on the rostrum this month at the Metropolitan Opera in New York for the house’s first staging of Adams’s nativity-inspired work El Niño on 23 April, with a cast including Julia Bullock, Davóne Tines and J’nai Bridges. The summer brings two major new European stagings of Adams operas: The Gospel According to the Other Mary receives its Austrian premiere at the Volksoper Wien as part of the Vienna Festival (from 15 June) and Nixon in China is staged at the Deutsche Oper in Berlin by the Hauen und Stechen collective (from 22 June).

>  Further information on Work: Frenzy

Photo: Margaretta Mitchell

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