Notes and Editorial Reviews
"This was an exceptional and exciting concert by any standard...Mr. Dudamel, gyrating on the podium and in control at every moment, drew a cranked-up yet subtly colored performance of [John Adams'
City Noir] from his eager players. He seemed so confident dispatching this metrically fractured work that I was drawn into the music, confident that a pro was on the podium...The Mahler performance was not what you might expect from a young conductor. For all the sheer energy of the music-making, here was a probing, rigorous and richly characterized interpretation, which Mr. Dudamel conducted from memory." -- Anthony Tommasini, New York Times
"The Adams piece is a commission by the orchestra from a composer
with whom it is very familiar, and who now serves as creative chair for the orchestra (appointed by Dudamel). According to Adams, City Noir is the third in a triptych, the first two panels of which are El Dorado and The Dharma at Big Sur, two very different works, and both very different from this one. Noir is a three-movement symphonic work, similar in form to Naïve and Sentimental Music (another commission from this orchestra, which subsequently recorded it). As the title implies, we are solidly in Dashiell Hammett/Raymond Chandler land: Adams mentions the Black Dahlia case, and listeners may be reminded of films from The Big Sleep to L.A. Confidential. The structure of the work is also tripartite. Adams says, “The music of City Noir is in the form of a 30-minute symphony. The formal and expressive weight of its three movements is distributed in pockets of high energy that are nested among areas of more leisurely—one could even say ‘cinematic’—lyricism.” The titles the composer has chosen for the three movements are “The City and its Double,” “The Song Is for You,” and “Boulevard Night.” Nervous pulsing gives way to swirling wind phrases over a percussion ostinato; strings and a solo saxophone propel the first piece into statements by the full orchestra. That cinematic lyricism is present in the kind of arching string melody that Adams could patent. Tension, pace, and volume mount, though there is no real catharsis as the tension is suddenly relaxed and an extended passage of eerie calm prevails, setting the nocturnal mood for the second movement, which follows without a pause (on the PBS broadcast, the titles of the three movements appeared as the piece progressed; they are inexplicably absent here).
Solos by saxophone, English horn, and trombone establish the song of the title, then brass and wind choirs take over as the pace mounts, only to give way to solos by viola and clarinet before this short movement ends. After a pause, Boulevard Night opens with a swelling theme in the orchestra, giving way to percussion and harp over ethereal strings, as the solo trumpet plays a sweetly melancholy tune; this is interrupted by a Rite-like chugging theme in the strings and low brass. This stops and starts, accompanied by a manic sax solo. The full orchestra takes over, chided by a muted trombone, and then the sax. The chugging rhythm resumes, this time to exclamations from brass and winds, accelerating to the sudden conclusion of the piece. Adams joins Dudamel onstage amid thunderous applause."
FANFARE: Christopher Abbot
Works on This Recording
City Noir by John Adams
Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: 20th Century
Symphony no 1 in D major "Titan" by Gustav Mahler
Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra
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