Review: LA Phil, Yuja Wang, and John Adams’s new “Must the Devil Have All the Good Tunes?” concerto

Posted on: March 13, 2019

For John Adams’s new piano concerto, the composer “came up with this honey of a title: ‘Must the Devil Have All the Good Tunes?,’ writes Richard Ginnell in Friday’s (3/8) Los Angeles Times. “He got the title from … an old issue of the New Yorker…. The title also suggested Liszt’s ‘Totentanz’ for piano and orchestra as a model, but Adams’ own totentanz (dance of the dead) for [pianist Yuja] Wang comes from the core of some other planet. ‘Devil’ divides itself into three fast-slow-fast sections and has a brittle, rhythmic, percussive agenda. Adams grabs us by the lapels from the outset, having his pianist pound out heavy chords that instantly recall Henry Mancini’s rumbling theme from ‘Peter Gunn.’ … Even in the contemplative slow movement, caressed by Adams’ typical sustained strings, there is underlying tension and an impatient desire to get the engines going again.… It did make a fine, energetic, jumping noise that could only have come from an American composer with an eye on popular culture.” Los Angeles Philharmonic Music Director Gustavo Dudamel led the concert, which included Mahler’s Symphony No. 1.

Posted March 13, 2019