Celebrating John Adams @ 70

(Los Angeles, CA, February 2, 2017) – There will be an exuberant musical celebration in Walt Disney Concert Hall on Sunday, March 26 when the Los Angeles Master Chorale and Artistic Director Grant Gershon celebrate composer John Adams’ 70th birthday with Les Noces, Stravinsky’s raucous depiction of a 19th-century Russian peasant wedding. The concert will open with the premiere of 10 new piano transcriptions of choruses from Adams operas by noted Japanese pianist Chitose Okashiro, curated by Gershon, for music publisher Boosey & Hawkes. The choruses are from The Gospel According to the Other Mary, The Death of Klinghoffer, Doctor Atomic, A Flowering Tree, and Nixon in China. The pianists performing with the choir will be Gloria Cheng, Lisa Edwards, Bryan Pezzone, and Vicki Ray. 

All four pianists will also perform Stravinsky’s Les Noces (The Wedding) with the Los Angeles Master Chorale and soloists Elissa Johnston (soprano), Peabody Southwell (mezzo soprano), Todd Strange (tenor), and Nicholas Brownlee (bass). The piece requires four grand pianos to be on stage at once, along with a battery of percussion instruments played by Theresa Dimond, John Wakefield, Scott Higgins, Judy Chilnick, Alex Frederick, and Gary Heaton-Smith. 

Although it was not premiered until 1923, Stravinsky conceived of his “dance cantata” in 1914 when he was still writing The Rite of Spring, finishing his first draft of Les Noces in 1917. The piece is dedicated to Sergei Diaghilev, founder of the Ballet Russes, the company that performed the world premiere. Stravinsky has said that Les Noces was Diaghilev’s favorite work of his. Adams has also called the piece one of his favorite works and one that has influenced him as a composer. 

“John and I have often talked about our shared obsession with Stravinsky’s absolutely bonkers masterpiece, Les Noces,” said Gershon. “By featuring Les Noces along with these new transcriptions of John’s opera choruses we’ve created a monster concert for four brilliant LA-based pianists. Gloria, Lisa, Bryan and Vicki each have a long and special relationship with John and with the Master Chorale. This will be a very special celebratory night for all of us, and for the audience.” 

Gershon and Adams have an enduring friendship and professional relationship which began 27 years ago in Los Angeles when Gershon played keyboards in the pit for Nixon in China at LA Opera. Since then, Gershon has led the world premiere performances of Adams’ theater piece I Was Looking At The Ceiling And Then I Saw The Sky, premiered his two-piano piece Hallelujah Junction (with Gloria Cheng), and has conducted performances of Harmonium, The Gospel According to the Other Mary, El Niño, The Chairman Dances, and choruses from The Death of Klinghoffer. In November, Gershon will conduct the world premiere of Adams’ much-anticipated Girls of the Golden West for San Francisco Opera in a production directed by Peter Sellars. 

Gershon was recently approached by Boosey & Hawkes to curate and edit a new three volume set of choruses from Adams’ operas, newly transcribed for piano by Chitose Okashiro. 

“The goal is to create versions of these iconic choral pieces that are more idiomatic for piano than the original piano reductions which were written for rehearsal purposes only.,” said Gershon. “These new transcriptions will make Adams’ opera choruses more accessible for performance by choral ensembles throughout the world.” 

The Los Angeles Master Chorale has performed a large body of Adams’ work. It gave the first Los Angeles performances of choruses from The Death of Klinghoffer with Gershon in 2009. It has also performed numerous of his works with the LA Philharmonic including A Flowering Tree in 2009 conducted by Adams, and The Gospel According to the Other Mary in 2012 and 2013 conducted by Gustavo Dudamel. It also performed Gospel at the Ravinia Festival in 2013 with Gershon conducting. The Master Chorale performed Adams’ nativity oratorio, El Niño in 2003 and 2005 with the LA Phil and Esa-Pekka Salonen, and most recently in 2016 with Gershon. Of this performance, LA Times Music Critic Mark Swed said: “With Grant Gershon conducting and his Master Chorale as the chorus, along with members of the L.A. Phil, there was a sense of rightness. No combination of chorus, orchestra and conductor has more experience with Adams’ music …” 

The Los Angeles Master Chorale’s concert on Sunday, March 26 will follow Gershon conducting three concert performances of The Gospel According to the Other Mary with San Francisco Symphony February 16-18, and the Los Angeles Master Chorale performing Nixon in China with the LA Phil on March 3 and 5 in performances conducted by Adams. 
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