John Adams will be turning 70 next Wednesday, so San Francisco Symphony is planning several performances to help celebrate. Tonight and Saturday, the composer will be curating a program called ‘Emergent’ at Soundbox, with his own works and those of three others. Next week, there’s a production of his oratorio The Gospel According to the Other Mary, and from the 22nd to the 25th, a large work for violin and orchestra called Scheherazade.2, written for soloist Leila Josefowicz.
You can listen to the extended interview here:
“I wanted to write a passion story,” he explains. “I had composed in 2000 one of my favorite works, El Niño, which is my Messiah. It’s a Good News piece. And then, 13 or 14 years later, I really had a need to tell the other story. It’s about death and crucifixion, and resurrection, and particularly about it from a woman’s point of view. So for me, composing really is a means of going deeper into myself and finding how I feel about something.” He continues: “I’m not a church-going person, I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about theology, or fine-tuning my spiritual awareness, but these stories, particularly the Passion story, because it involves something that has deeply upset me all my life, which is the practice of capital punishment, and also because it is about death and resurrection.”
Scheherazade.2 (pronounced “point-two”) he says, came at him from two directions. He wanted to write a work for Leila Josefowicz, who had played his Violin Concerto and his Electric Violin Concerto (The Dharma at Big Sur) and happened to see an exhibit in Paris about the famous storyteller. “And I thought we could have a modern Scheherazade, a woman that didn’t just tell an increasingly enchanting story to save her own life, but a woman who actually was empowered, who spoke back to tyranny… Without making a blatantly political piece, which Scheherazade.2 isn’t, it’s nonetheless a big romantic symphony/concerto but with a bit of a narrative about a very powerful young woman.”