Monday, January 05, 2015

Is This an Improvement?

At next week's San Francisco Symphony programs, John Adams, rather than MTT, will conduct Grand Pianola Music. Orli Shaham and Marc-Andre Hamelin are the pianists, as previously announced.

Malcolm McDowell will recite the Devil's lines in Stravinsky's L'Histoire du Soldat, which MTT is still going to conduct.


CK Dexter Haven said...

No, it's not. I like other conductors interpreting JA's works better than his own interpretations. In fact, I like JA's interpretations of other composers works better than when he conducts his own works.

Lisa Hirsch said...

That is about what I thought, even with limited exposure to JCA's conducting.

Michael Strickland said...

Who cares if it's an "improvement" or not? The chance to hear a major composer conduct his own early work is a rare opportunity.

Daniel Wolf said...

A composer's own performances may or may not be "better" than other, but they can be valuable records of aspects of a work that are ambiguous or even absent in the score.

That said, sometimes even more valuable than a performance, however, are the rehearsals with the composer. My favorite example of this is William Malloch's recording of Stravinsky rehearsing the Symphonies of Wind Instruments, which can be found in the Pacifica section of the Internet Archives, usefully capturing a later stage in the composer's own understanding of the piece

CK Dexter Haven said...

Just to be clear, I don't have a problem with JA conducting his own works. He's a decent conductor, and it certainly can be interesting to hear a composer conduct his own works. I've invested time and money to hear him conduct his compositions, and I'm sure I'll continue to do it.

Of course, that wasn't the original question. Every time I've heard other conductors -- Salonen, Robertson, Kahane, Dudamel, Slatkin -- lead works that I've also heard Adams conduct, I find his interpretations more plug-and-play, like you entered the notes straight into Sibelius or Logic and let it spit out the results. That sounds harsher than I intend it, but directionally at least, I find it to be consistently true.

The latest example for me was his take on "Naive and Sentimental Music" with the LA Phil last year. It was a solid performance of an excellent work, but it just didn't pop the way it did when I've heard Salonen conduct it in person or even on the recording.

Dave MacD said...

I've heard JA conduct his works and those of others on two occasions with the New World Symphony. He's a wonderful composer, but I'd much rather here MTT conducting. The novelty of the circumstance is not worth the notable drop in performance quality.