Gramophone Magazine

James McCarthy celebrates that rare beast – a composer who writes music that is enjoyed by the critics and the public alike

 Deborah O'Grady  (2400 × 2400)

There are those who would have you believe that new music is a battleground – a deeply cratered landscape scarred by musical grenades flung by vengeful composers seeking with each new piece to finally silence all of their contemporaries who dare to have a different aesthetic outlook to their own. It’s all ‘-isms’ and ‘schools of composition’ and ‘music’s true path’. And of course it’s utter nonsense and drivel. Don’t believe a word of it.

Enter John Adams (b1947). Having never been a composer who felt the need to conform to anyone else’s idea of the kind of music he should be writing, Adams is consequently one of the most performed composers of concert music today. In 2014 alone, seven of his stage works were performed in venues ranging from the Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris to the Metropolitan Opera in New York.


Leila Josefowicz’ triumph in “Scheherazade.2” premiere


“The music is aflame with staggered, pulsing chords and desire, then settles into a long episode of dreamy, sensual allure.” (NY Times)

The world premiere performances of “Scheherazade.2,” John Adams’ new “dramatic symphony for violin and orchestra” drew standing, cheering audiences for soloist Leila Josefowicz and the New York Philharmonic, conducted by Alan Gilbert. Adams’ latest work, a fifty-minute symphony-concerto that re-imagines Scheherazade as a modern, empowered woman, will be presented in April in concerts by the Cincinnati Symphony in April and with the Atlanta Symphony in May, both conducted by the composer. In October of this year Adams and Josefowicz will take the work to Europe, performing it with both the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra and the London Symphony Orchestra.

Writing in the New York Times, Anthony Tommasini commented:

“What would a Scheherazade for our own time be like? This work offers his answer in the portrait of a beautiful, empowered and fearless woman confronting oppression.

Long an Adams champion, Ms. Josefowicz gave a dazzling and inspired performance, backed by the glittering, rhapsodic and supremely confident playing of the orchestra under Mr. Gilbert.

Playing this formidable violin part from memory, she gave a stunning performance, by turns commanding and vulnerable, slashing and sensual. The ovation was tremendous.”

Read the entire review HERE.

Scheherazade.2 in Atlanta

May 7&9, 2015

Veiled woman

Scheherazade.2, after being enthusiastically greeted in performances in New York and Cincinnati, will appear next on concerts by the Atlanta Symphony, May 7 & 9. Leila Josefowicz, for whom the work was composed, will once again be the soloist, with John Adams conducting. For more information go to the Atlanta Symphony home page.

After the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra’s performances April 17 and 18, Janelle Gelfand wrote in her Cincinnati.com review: “Scheherazade.2 is an intense, powerful and theatrical work,” and that Leila Josefowicz was “sensational… playing with immense beauty, against a pulsating, atmospheric sound world in the orchestra. It wasn’t long before her playing became agitated, as she dug into her strings and propelled her way through stunning technical fireworks, almost nonstop.”

A “dramatic symphony for violin and orchestra,” John Adams’ newest work, “Scheherazade.2,” received its world premiere performances with Alan Gilbert conducting the New York Philharmonic. Written in close collaboration with Leila Josefowicz and dedicated to her, this 47 minute, four-movement piece is already scheduled for future performances in the coming months in Amsterdam, London, Los Angeles, Seattle, Toronto, Sydney, Vienna, Helsinki and Berlin.

Persian woman

The theme of a modern, “empowered” Scheherazade was suggested by images in recent events around the world of women fighting back against  political and religious oppression.

Read Anthony Tommasini’s NY Times review here.

Read Alan Kozinn in the Wall Street Journal here. 


The four movements:

I. Tale of the wise young woman-Pursuit by the true believers
II. A long desire (love scene)
III. Scheherazade and the men with beards (Doctrinal disputes: The men with beards argue among themselves – The Judgment – Scheherazade’s appeal – The condemnation] IV.Escape-Flight-Sanctuary

Read announcement in The New Yorker HERE