Others however, including Adams loved it, and the piece has gone on to become one of his landmark creations. Wonderful things can happen when a composer gives himself permission to break his own rules. Purists booed and decried the work as heresy, comparing Adams’ creation to the commercialism of McDonalds and Walt Disney. It certainly did in 1982 when John Adams, up to that point a dyed-in-the-pulse minimalist, decided to take a break from being so serious and have some fun.The result was “Grand Pianola Music,” a two-movement concerto that fused meticulously evolving minimalist patterning with a jubilantly gaudy sense of humor that referenced such non-classical influences in Adams’ life as jazz and the movies.
15, Adams, a New Englander-turned Californian, will celebrate his 70th birthday. And in recognition, musical celebrations are taking place all over the world, including at the Valley Performing Arts Center, where the first of three Adams concerts took place Saturday. On Feb. Subsequent concerts are scheduled for Feb. The concert, whimsically titled “American Berserk,” also marked the first collaboration between VPAC and the Santa Monica-based music series Jacaranda. 3 and 16.A major part of Jacaranda’s mandate (as curated by director Patrick Scott) is to combine musical entertainment with a sense of historical context so audiences can connect the “now” of a piece to its historical and cultural roots.
AMERICAN BERSERK: A CELEBRATION OF JOHN ADAMS
Feb. Feb. Lawrence String Quartet); 8 p.m. ★★★½Where: Valley Performing Arts Center, Cal State Northridge, 18111 Nordhoff St.When: Next concerts in the series are 8 p.m. 16 (Wild Up).Tickets: $63.Suitability: Family entertainment, but not for small children.Information: 818-677-3000, www.valley performingartscenter.org. 3 (St.
Gottschalk cakewalks faded into the era of ragtime with Taylor delivering light-fingered renditions of three rags by Scott Joplin: the “Paragon Rag,” “Bethena” and the composer’s most famous ditty (made popular in the movie, “The Sting”), the “Maple Leaf Rag.” Joplin’s rapid fingerings and merry-go-round rhythms gave way to the sophisticated rhythms of Duke Ellington’s “In a Sentimental Mood” performed in a 1948 arrangement by Art Tatum. All that was missing was the smoky blue haze of a Manhattan super club. Smooth as silk, it introduced an entirely different atmosphere of sultry melodic syncopation.
The first half of Saturday’s concert was devoted to the 150 years of American piano music that paved the way to “Grand Pianola Music” performed by the superbly skilled pianist Christopher Taylor. He began with three rollicking works from the 1850s composed by the rock star pianist of his day, Louis Moreau Gottschalk. Renowned for his flamboyant appearance and dazzling virtuosity, Gottschalk was the son of a Jewish London-born businessman and a notoriously beautiful Creole belle.Taylor’s renditions of “Banjo,” “Ojos Criollos” and “Pasquinade” captured the flowing lyricism of Chopin and combined it with the rollicking spirit of American folk tunes and Gottschalk’s favorite dance style, the cakewalk.