Hope to see you all again for this week’s concert! Timothy Benson, assistant chorus director of the Milwaukee Symphony Chorus, is this week’s guest speaker for Behind the Notes – so come to the Anello Atrium one hour before performances to hear more about the program.

It’s been an incredible week to say the least. I remember the first time I heard Adams’ Harmonielehre as a conducting student at the Mannes College of Music in New York. Five years later I haven’t forgotten a moment of it. “Thrilling” just does not come close to describing the experience of listening to this work. I have absolutely no problem with arguing for this piece as the masterpiece of the past 50 years and certainly the greatest orchestral work by a living composer. Why?

1. No rules.

Throw away all your conceptions about what contemporary music sounds like. This piece follows its own rules – but I promise that it will speak in a language that will affect you as much as Beethoven and Mahler while taking you to exciting new worlds of orchestral sound.

2. Impact

When you go home to listen to this work again, it won’t be only to get “more” from it. It will be because you can’t get it out of your mind. For a piece of this complexity and length, it has an incredible first impact. Just sit back and let the sound wash over you.

3. Innocence

So much of the music from the past 100 years takes itself very seriously. And some of it is wonderful, but Harmonielehre has a certain innocence about it that is surprisingly refreshing. The piece itself seems to wander through emotional worlds with the wonder of a child seeing something for the first time – perhaps because Adams was partly inspired in this work by his young daughter.

I could write so much more, but it’s time for rehearsal. Don’t miss a chance to hear this work conducted by the Edo de Waart who premiered the work with the San Francisco Symphony in 1985 and remains close friends with John Adams. As always, I will be around the hall during performances to answer your questions and receive your comments.


About Francesco Lecce-Chong


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