Back from Berkeley


We’re back in Minnesota this week after our residency at Cal Performances in Berkeley. Joined by conductor Benjamin Shwartz and clarinetist and Artistic Partner Martin Fröst, we performed three distinct programs in the course of three days.

All three programs featured music by composer and former SPCO Creative Chair John Adams. Writing in the San Francisco Chronicle, critic Joshua Kosman wrote:

[Adams’ Chamber Symphony and Son of Chamber Symphony] do share some common threads, most notably the melodic and rhythmic inventiveness that runs through nearly all this composer’s work, and especially the fiercely virtuosic demands that Adams makes on performers. All of those qualities, and more, came through in these taut and provocative performances.

If I felt a slight preference for Sunday’s magnificent account of the “Chamber Symphony,” that may only reflect my preference for the score itself, which after nearly a quarter century still bursts with zest and unpredictability. There’s a sort of cage-match quality to the fast outer movements, where Adams sets all the instrumentalists going at each other in a series of rapidly shifting rhythmic allegiances and cross-currents; and though the steady tread of the walking bass line in the middle movement provides a semblance of stability, here too the listener feels that frenzy is always lying in wait around the next corner.

The St. Paul players elicited that precarious thrill perfectly, all while delivering a performance of remarkable and fearless precision. On Saturday, the same sense of headlong momentum coursed through the opening movement of “Son of Chamber Symphony,” which is built around the brusque rhythmic theme of the scherzo from Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony.

We were especially pleased with Twitter praise from the composer himself.

Thanks to our Bay Area friends and the Minnesotans who traveled to hear us in Berkeley.