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John Adams Leads Residency with Orquesta y Coro Nacionales de España in Madrid

John Adams profile

Composer John Adams kicks off an extensive residency with the Orquesta y Coro Nacionales de España (OCNE) in Madrid tonight, marking the last part of the Orquesta’s season dedicated to “Viajes Lejanos.” These “viajes lejanos,” or “distant travels,” began in the Far East, continued west through the Europe, and make their final musical journey to America this week.

The American portion of the Orquesta’s season is specifically dedicated to Adams, who celebrated his 66th birthday last weekend and was given complete free reign to showcase his works. The entire residency—titled Carta Blanca a John Adams—begins with Dutch pianist Ralph Van Raat performing three of Adams’s piano pieces at Fundación Juan March tonight: American Berserk, China Gates, and Phrygian Gates, all of which are featured on Adams’s album Road Movies, released precisely one decade ago on Nonesuch Records. Radio Clásica conducts a live interview with Adams directly before the recital.

Thursday night features the screening of the film version of Adams’s 1991 opera The Death of Klinghoffer—directed by Penny Woolcock for British television in 2003—at Filmoteca Española's Cine Doré. As noted in the Nonesuch Journal last week, The Death of Klinghoffer is set to receive its Metropolitan Opera premiere this fall.

This coming weekend, Adams conducts three nights of a Beethoven-inspired program at the Auditorio Nacional de Música’s Sala Sinfónica on Friday and Saturday evenings and Sunday afternoon. He leads the Orquesta in the overture to Beethoven's Fidelio in E major, Op. 72, followed by two of his own: Absolute Jest, a piece inspired by late Beethoven scherzos, performed with the Attacca Quartet, and Harmonielehre, which can be heard on his first recording for Nonesuch from nearly 30 years ago.

The following week includes performances of Shaker Loops, John’s Book of Alleged Dances, and his String Quartet by Attacca Quartet; Slonimsky’s Earbox, and Doctor Atomic Symphony; a roundtable talk with the composer; a screening of the 2010 film I Am Love starring Tilda Swinton and featuring music by Adams; and a guest appearance by pianist and fellow label mate Jeremy Denk, who performs Ravel’s Piano Concerto in G major.

On March 11, the residency concludes with a final evening at the Auditorio Nacional de Música, as musicians and singers from OCNE pair additional performances of Adams’s Harmonielehre and Shaker Loops with Loop!, the result of a collaborative session among Adams and area students from IES Joan Miró de San Sebastian de los Reyes earlier in the residency, featuring new compositions inspired by Adams's music.

For additional details on all of the events of Carta Blanca a John Adams, visit


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