American composer John Adams started making his indelible impression on listeners when, in his early 30s, he spun off from the compelling audacity of minimalism into his own directions with pieces such as Shaker Loops and Harmonium. The former is one of two works, remarkably, that the Omaha Symphony has been offering within five days of each other.
Harmonielehre is the second. About this dynamic, expressive, colorful composition from 1984-85 Adams says that it melds techniques of minimalism “with the harmonic and expressive world of fin de siècle Romanticism” as well as “shades of Mahler, Sibelius, Debussy” and young Schoenberg.
Among what spurred him in Harmonielehre were the writings of Carl Jung exploring the melancholy legend of King Amfortas whose wound could not heal. Another inspiration was a dream wherein Adams saw his infant daughter floating in the heavens, suggesting, at first, a cradle song.
The other reason to be there was written by Beethoven at about the same age as was Adams when writing his masterpiece. The tour-de-force Violin Concerto, with its lyricism, serenity, liveliness and momentum, is considered one of the most important works of its kind. And one admired and loved by multitudes.
The soloist in Beethoven’s composition is Augustin Hadelich, who just won the 2016 Grammy Award for Best Classical Instrument Solo in his recording of the Dutilleux Violin Concerto, L’arbre des songes, with the Seattle Symphony under Ludovic Morlot. Of a 2015 concert, Hadelich “made the Beethoven Concerto sing. There is a succinct word for a performance like this, ‘masterly’,” the Los Angeles Times enthused.
Andrew Grams conducts the Omaha Symphony. He’s shown “heart-stopping stillness and bracing vibrancy, sometimes at the same time,” said the Salt Lake Tribune. Grams, hailing from Maryland, has led the Philadelphia Orchestra, the Chicago, Detroit, National, Toronto, Montreal, and BBC (London) symphony orchestras, and more.
The performers’ ages dovetail with those of the two composers when their music was created. Harmonious, yes?
The Omaha Symphony concert is April 22 & 23 at Kiewit Hall, Holland Center, 1200 Douglas St. Fri. & Sat. 7:30 p.m. Tickets: $19-$70. www.omahasymphony.org