SSO: Untitled 1 - Adams, Adès, Reich

Tonight I went to the late-night "Untitled" series concert at Benaroya, and sat on the floor right in front of the musicians with my friend Lauren. The program:

  1. John Adams: Road Movies (1995, for violin and piano)
    I really liked this, and it held the audience in a trance. The slow middle movement was unexpectedly affecting and desoloately beautiful. The other parts were all about forward movement, but far from being boring repetitive minimalism, the music was finely honed and full of incident, with subtle rythmic trickery. It was a treat to sit by the piano and watch the score.
  2. Thomas Adès: Life Story (1993, for soprano, two bass clarinets and double bass)
    I pay attention now when I see the name Adès, since I loved the Danish String Quartet album with his Arcadiana for string quartet. Tonight's piece was earlier, written when he was 22 on a text by Tennessee Williams about one-night stands. The music bent modern-music techniques to sexy ends, and it was langorously well-written for the instruments, and the text made the audience laugh.
  3. Steve Reich: Different Trains (1988, for string quartet and tape)
    There's more than one string quartet involved here — there's another playing at the same time on tape, as well as spoken word and train whistle screeches. There's a lot here about concept, backed up by the musical substance in terms of pulsing and overlapping rhythms and musical phase shifts. It's kind of exhausting and not especially fun to watch, but I can appreciate it on some level. And the cellist tonight was a founding member of the Kronos Quartet who originally premiered the piece.

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