I took a chance on this because I was interested to hear what John Adams is doing these days, and because the Nonesuch label often presents interesting and innovative releases which are a refreshing change from the usual hum-drum of reissues from the major labels. And, of course, the title caught my eye. Knowing full well this would have absolutely no relation whatsoever to Rimsky-Korsakov's masterpiece, I couldn't help myself from giving it a listen.
This piece begins promisingly enough, with mostly tonal, "Impressionistic", colorful orchestration. But it doesn't take long for it to deviate into atonal noisiness, with scratchy, sawing violin noodling and loud, obnoxious orchestral outbursts. Indeed, the violin writing throughout is very busy, with scarcely a developed theme or hummable tune to go with its endless conglomeration of notes. I soon tired of it and wished for more orchestral interludes and a return to that opening passage of the first movement. I found all 4 movements to be too long; the thematic, creative material is simply too meager to sustain their length - and they certainly outstay their welcome.
Leila Josefowicz does her best to make music out of the extremely difficult violin writing so full of notes it must have been extremely daunting to learn. And David Robertson, conducting the St. Louis Symphony (in excellent shape these days), does his best to make sense out of it all. Indeed, the orchestral contribution is by far the most appreciable aspect of the piece. But, I can't help thinking this just shouldn't have been a long, drawn-out, meandering nearly 50-minute violin concerto. It's far too long, and much too much of the same thing all through it. It just doesn't have the variety of creation or inspiration to hold one's interest. And frankly, it's not all that different, or more creatively developed than his Violin Concerto of 1993.
I'm glad I heard this piece. And David Robertson impresses greatly conducting the St. Louis Symphony. But my suspicions were quickly confirmed that this new work can in no way provide the level of enduring musical enrichment that the more famous work of the (almost) same name has for over 125 years. And I can't imagine ever wanting to listen to this CD again.
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