As part of his final year as Music Director and following a two-season celebration of the Orchestra’s 125th anniversary, Peter Oundjian and the RSNO here present their second recording of music by John Adams, with the exceptional participation of the Doric String Quartet. Written for a large orchestra including six percussionists, keyboard sampler, and amplified steel-string guitar, Naive and Sentimental Music is a sweepingly symphonic masterpiece, full of contrasts and clashes. It reflects the dichotomy between ‘naive’ and ‘sentimental’ poetry as analyzed by Friedrich Schiller in his 1795 essay Über naive und sentimentalische Dichtung, as well as the ‘bipolar’ musical life of Esa-Pekka Salonen, the dedicatee of this piece, whoRead more conducted the first performance with the Los Angeles Philharmonic in 1999. Absolute Jest is a large-scale scherzo for amplified string quartet and orchestra, heavily inspired by the music of Beethoven, which Adams has always deeply admired. The quartet of soloists, a late addition to the score, emphasises the echoes of Beethoven’s music (mainly his string quartets) and facilitates a ‘hyperspace rate’ of virtuosity, which the Doric String Quartet here perfectly demonstrates.
The RSNO’s playing captures all the delicacy, grandeur and zing of Adams’s complex score, while the Doric String Quartet brings sumptuous sweetness and laser-like clarity to its solo part. There follows a magnificent reading of Naïve and Sentimental Music, with Oundjian skilfully managing the balance of pace and introspection.