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John Adams Harmonielehre recording from MTT & the San Francisco Symphony

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Published on Jan 27, 2012

The SFS commissioned, premiered, and recorded Harmonielehre in March 1985 under Edo De Waart during Adams’ tenure as SFS composer in residence. Adams recalled, “I was a young composer when I wrote Harmonielehre and I had really only written two other orchestra pieces at that point and one of them was Harmonium, which was premiered by the San Francisco Symphony only a few years before that. Harmonielehre was tough coming out… I was searching for what I wanted to say. I knew that part of what I wanted to write for the orchestra was a music that would kind of strum the strings of its repertoire that would play to its strengths… [With Harmonielehre] I really confronted who I was, who I am, John Adams as a composer - somebody who grew up listening to classical music, classical orchestral music, who played in orchestras when I was younger, who conducted, who loved that repertoire, but at the same time was somebody who also grew up listening to jazz and rock and who was very influenced by minimalism. So it’s this rather strange marriage of the driving pulse of American minimalism and the sensuous and emotional and expressive world of the great European masterpieces.”
Michael Tilson Thomas, who conducted the work during his first season as SFS Music Director in 1995 and multiple times since, said of the work, “When a new piece is premiered, it can make a stunning impression. But the real story of that piece is what emerges over time. When the SFS first performed Harmonielehre in the mid-80s it was a life changing moment for everybody who heard it. I heard it first on the recording and I was drawn into the piece in so many ways, its enormous power, but also its tenderness and depth of expression. And now, decades later, the piece still stands up.” To learn more visit http://www.sfsymphony.org

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