JOHN ADAMS (b.1947): Naive and Sentimental Music for Orchestra, Absolute Jest for String Quartet and Orchestra.
Catalogue Number: 06T060
Reference: CHSA 5199
Format: SACD hybrid
Description: "A Long Ride in a very fast machine indeed" might be an apt subtitle for Adams' 25-minute scherzo, Absolute Jest, probably his most exhilarating score to date. The piece is a tribute to Beethoven, and is assembled entirely from fragments of Beethoven's works - lots of them, all very recognisable, which adds to the sense of fun - especially the quartets. The composer refuses to say whether the piece is intended to be humorous, but the perfect timing with which the most wonderfully appropriate gestures are suddenly introduced into the onrush of ideas cannot fail to raise a smile at least - and what is that reference to Stravinsky doing popping its head in toward the end? - the whole thing might also be described as the apotheosis of Beethovenian high spirits. Naïve and Sentimental Music is symphonic in scale, scope and overall shape, if not internal structure. In this it resembles the magnificent Harmonielehre from a decade earlier, which is not infrequently referred to as a symphony. The title implies the dichotomy between art that describes the world with childlike wonderment, and the more Romantic approach of introducing the emotional responses of the artist. The first movement introduces a 'naïve' diatonic theme, which soon gathers highly emotive, viscerally exciting momentum in Adams' characteristic style. The second movement was inspired by the idea of Busoni's Berceuse élégiaque, and employs a similar undulating accompaniment, though the slow chords and steel guitar embellishments suggest a more new-age meets Pink Floyd æsthetic. Halfway through, the movement builds a powerful climax in post-minimalist waves, revealing it as a more conventional Romantic slow movement from this point. The finale, "Chain to the Rhythm" is a typical Adams exercise in unstoppable momentum, based on rhythmic gestures and pulsating vigor. Doric String Quartet, Royal Scottish National Orchestra; Peter Oundjian.