The concerto tradition, and new piano concertos by Adès and Adams

Posted on: March 20, 2019

“Glamorous, gladiatorial, faintly disreputable, the concerto is an essential feature of modern concert life,” writes Alex Ross in the March 25 New Yorker. “Contemporary composers who produce concertos … must contend with the genre’s history of hoary theatrics…. The ever-formidable British composer Thomas Adès’s … Concerto for Piano and Orchestra [which] had its première at the Boston Symphony on March 7 … is an unabashed showpiece in the grand manner, replete with thundering double octaves, frame-rattling two-hand chords, and keyboard-sweeping glissandos…. The soloist  … was the Russian-American pianist Kirill Gerstein…. The same week that the Adès made its début in Boston, the Los Angeles Philharmonic introduced a new concerto by John Adams, titled ‘Must the Devil Have All the Good Tunes?’ Yuja Wang was the soloist, and Gustavo Dudamel conducted…. The ending is abrupt and chilling. Three times, the strings intervene with sustained D’s in stacked octaves, as if issuing warnings. A brutal last stampede is cut short by a blaring dissonance in the horns and a reverberating chime.… On the East Coast, Adès offers a mirage of joy; on the West Coast, Adams stares into the storm.”

Posted March 20, 2019