Impromptu: After Schubert (Premiere Performance)
February 26, 2017: Emanuel Ax, piano
Highly acclaimed for his imaginative, atmospheric works, Samuel Adams composes acoustic and electroacoustic music that draws on traditional forms, noise, and his experiences as an improvisor. He has received commissions from such prestigious entities as Carnegie Hall, the San Francisco and New World Symphonies, the St. Lawrence String Quartet, and—resulting in the present work—pianist Emanuel Ax.
In 2015 the Chicago Symphony Orchestra named Adams a Mead Composer-in-Residence, which not only involves creating new works for the orchestra but co-curating the CSO’s acclaimed MusicNOW series. Light Readings, commissioned by MusicNOW, just received its premiere in 2016 by the Northwestern Bienen School of Music Contemporary/Early Vocal Ensemble and members of the Chicago Symphony. The year 2016 also saw the premiere of his Quartet Movement by the forward-thinking, Chicago-based Spektral Quartet. Adams is currently working on a piece for the Australian Chamber Orchestra and recently received a fellowship from the Civitella Ranieri Foundation in Umbria, Italy, where he will be an artist-in-residence during the summer of 2017.
A committed educator, Adams frequently engages in projects with young musicians, among them the National Youth Orchestra of the United States of America (NYOUSA), for which he composed a work that was premiered under the baton of David Robertson. In the summer of 2016 he worked with the National Orchestral Institute fellows to record his Drift and Providence for release on the Naxos label. Adams also teaches composition periodically at the Crowden School in Berkeley, California. He himself studied composition and electroacoustic music at Stanford University while also active as a jazz bassist in San Francisco. He earned his master’s degree in composition from the Yale School of Music.
Adams’s Impromptus, still a work in progress, date mainly from 2015–16, written for Emanuel Ax on a commission from Music Accord, a consortium of top classical music presenting organizations. Ax was scheduled to premiere the pieces on his European tour and give the U.S. premiere in December 2016 at the University of Iowa, but the present performance constitutes the launch of the work through the performance of the second of these Impromptus, “After Schubert,” composed in the winter of 2015–16.
The composer writes: “I created these three pieces with the intention that they would be performed as links between each of the Four Impromptus, D. 935, by Franz Schubert. I imagine they could also be performed on their own—in any order or perhaps individually. . . . The process of writing the pieces was a terrific excuse to reacquaint myself with Schubert’s crystalline works (I used to play the Impromptus as a young pianist) and to rediscover their clarity, patience, and resonance.
“The music I created aims to assume a similar posture. Each impromptu is carefully constructed but rooted in a simple impulse . . . the second [constitutes] a symmetrical ABA form with material lifted from American folk music and the Sonata in B-flat major. . . . Sincerest thanks to Emanuel Ax for this wonderful opportunity.”
© Jane Vial Jaffe