John Adams, the L.A. Phil’s other new kid


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What does a renowned, Harvard-educated, Pulitzer Prize-winning classical music composer say just after the standing-ovation world premiere of his new symphony “City Noir” at Walt Disney Concert Hall, performed by the Los Angeles Philharmonic under the baton of its wildly celebrated new music director, Gustavo Dudamel?

“That was rockin’, wasn’t it?” says a beaming John Adams.

Yeah, that’s the way “we old boomers” talk, Los Angeles Philharmonic Assn. President Deborah Borda, 60, jokes of her longtime friend and colleague Adams, 62. It doesn’t seem to surprise her during a conversation at the gala party following the Oct. 8 premiere that Adams would use the phrase when talking about “City Noir,” a work inspired by Hollywood’s classic noir films of the 1940s and ’50s.


Besides — it was rockin’. The buzz at the Latin-themed post-premiere affair seemed to have less to do with the generously distributed “Pasión” cocktail created in honor of Dudamel’s first Disney Hall concert as Philharmonic music director — an alarmingly sweet combo of rum, pineapple, coconut juice and grenadine — than with the afterglow of the music.

The heady sensation made it clear that 28-year-old Dudamel isn’t the only new kid in town at the Phil: The other is Adams, in his inaugural season as the orchestra’s creative chair and curator of the Philharmonic’s first festival of Dudamel’s tenure: West Coast, Left Coast, a three-week event launching Saturday, Nov. 21, that explores California music.

The multidisciplinary festival will feature composers and performers long associated with California’s classical music scene, including San Francisco’s Kronos Quartet, composer-musician Terry Riley and former L.A. Philharmonic Music Director Esa-Pekka Salonen, now the orchestra’s first conductor laureate; Salonen’s “L.A. Variations” will be on the program with “City Noir,” also conducted by Dudamel.

Also on the eclectic list are former Beach Boy Brian Wilson and “The Yellow Shark,” a contemporary composition by the late Frank Zappa that Adams will conduct and describes as “fiendishly difficult.” “Being the cantankerous person that he was, when he composed classical contemporary music, he made sure it was hard,” Adams says, with obvious relish.

To read much more about Adams and the festival, head to the Los Angeles Times’ Arts page for Diane Haithman’s story.

Photo Credit: Allen J. Schaben/L.A. Times