University of Pittsburgh

John Adams Speaks About His Recent Compositions

132 Music Building, free Internationally acclaimed  composer John Adams will give a free lecture at the University of Pittsburgh on Saturday, November 15 at 3:30 p.m. Adams will discuss his recent compositions, including his latest opera Dr. Atomic, based on the life of J. Robert. Oppenheimer. John Adams is this year’s Pittsburgh Symphony Composer of the Year and his lecture at Pitt is part of an ongoing collaboration between the PSO and local universities, a collaboration which also includes performances of his music by university ensembles and opportunities for him to mentor young composers. One of America’s most admired and respected composers, John Adams is a musician of enormous range and technical command. Over the past 25 years, Adams’ music has played a decisive role in turning the tide of contemporary musical aesthetics away from academic modernism and toward a more expansive, expressive language, entirely characteristic of his New World surroundings. Born and raised in New England, Adams began composing at age ten and heard his first orchestral pieces performed while still a teenager. After earning two degrees from Harvard, he moved to Northern California in 1971 and has since lived in the San Francisco Bay area. Adams taught at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music for ten years before becoming composer-in-residence of the San Francisco Symphony (1982-85), and creator of the orchestra’s highly successful and controversial “New and Unusual Music” series. Several of Adams’ landmark orchestral works were written for and premiered by the San Francisco Symphony, including Harmonium (1980-81), Grand Pianola Music (1982), Harmonielehre (1984-85), and El Dorado (1991). In 1985, Adams began a collaboration with the poet Alice Goodman and stage director Peter Sellars that resulted in two groundbreaking operas: Nixon in China (1984-87) and The Death of Klinghoffer (1990-91). Produced worldwide, these works are among the most performed operas of the last two decades. Adams and Sellars collaborated on several more works including Doctor Atomic (2005), about J. Robert Oppenheimer and the creation of the first atomic bomb. Commissioned by the San Francisco Opera and premiered there in 2005, Doctor Atomic was introduced to European audiences in 2007 at the Netherlands Opera and given new productions by Lyric Opera of Chicago and the Metropolitan Opera in 2008. It will be presented by the English National Opera in March 2009. Adams’ On the Transmigration of Souls, composed for the New York Philharmonic in 2002 to commemorate the first anniversary of the World Trade Center attacks, received the 2003 Pulitzer Prize for Music, and the recording on Nonesuch won a rare “triple crown” of Grammy Awards: “Best Classical Recording”, “Best Orchestral Performance”, and “Best Classical Contemporary Composition”.

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