John Adams, Electricity and Orange Dresses – Jennifer Pizzuto

My apologies, firstly, for the tardiness of this blog post.  Life got in the way this week (as did a few too many green beers), and it hampered my “creative abilities.”  To that end, the engaging nature, and the way that the experience was nearly as fulfilling upon reflection, was freakish, albeit pleasant, happenstance.  Like a computer from 1984, I needed time to process and fully comprehend all of the intended meaning in last weekend’s performance.  And this is what I’ve surmised…


At moments when life becomes the most overwhelming, escapism is the cure.  The PSO stepped it up with the perfect program that featured John Adams, the current Composer of the Year.  Adams had penned a concerto that featured an electric violin, which was stirring and expressive —much like the musician who extracted its deliriously stunning tones.  Leila Josefowicz, who wielded the electric violin as a spectacular complement to John Adams’ The Darma at Big Sur, was a flourish of color.  She was the only musician whom I could have imagined playing this unique instrument with such passion and ability.  I still consider myself to be fairly new to the symphony scene, so it was a bit shocking (no pun intended) to see Ms. Josefowicz in her nearly-backless, fiery orange dress. It was strikingly different from the typical uniform of black, ebony and coal.  And of course, I loved the free spirited, nonconformist aura that Ms. Josefowicz exuded.  She did not need that new-fangled electricity to enhance her performance, as her own innate talent and sparkle were hypnotic.  But the electric violin was fun.

I absolutely loved seeing John Adams conduct his concerto.  There is certainly something to be said for watching a composer conduct his own work.  It’s similar to poetry being performed by its author—little is left to translation.  It’s all very intentional, which is convenient for those of us who are a bit slow and need meaning to be spelled out (preferably in large, brightly colored crayon, please).  Adams was very nurturing and fatherly in his style.  His love for the concerto, for the music itself, for the musicians and even for the audience was obvious.  His concerto perfectly depicted the beautiful topography of the Big Sur, a sight that I have not beheld personally, but now feel as though I’ve sampled the majestic flavor.

Interestingly, Adams references the first of Buddha’s Four Noble Truths when writing about Big Sur: “All life is sorrowful.”  Such a magnificent sight is one of nature’s reminders of how pitifully powerless we are, of how futile our attempts can be when we try to alter our own destinies sometimes, and that we will ultimately succumb to our battles with time.  And it is completely sorrowful, and soul-wrenching.  Exquisitely painful, and encapsulated in Adams’ work.  Well done, sir…and it only took a week (and the aid of some disgusting green beer) for me to fully grasp your meaning.  For me, it was definitely worth the wait.

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Mar 22