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North Carolina Symphony to Pay Tribute to Composer John Adams, 3/25 & 2/26

The North Carolina Symphony's innovative Composer Portraits concerts return next month with a tribute to American trailblazer John Adams, one of music's greatest living composers. Music Director Grant Llewellyn leads the orchestra, guest pianist Christopher Taylor and the North Carolina Master Chorale in "Composer Portraits: John Adams" at Meymandi Concert Hall in downtown Raleigh's Progress Energy Center for the Performing Arts on Friday and Saturday, March 25-26, at 8:00 p.m.

Recently recognized in survey by the League of American Orchestras as the most frequently performed living American composer, John Adams represents one of the great, towering figures in all of modern music. The Pulitzer Prize-winning composer has celebrated John Cage at the San Francisco Conservatory, spearheaded the use of electronics and synthesizers as both a composer and conductor and broadened music's reach by growing Minimalism to particularly vigorous heights.

This concert offers a unique look at the visionary composer, positioning his most celebrated and powerful works alongside compositions by Beethoven, Britten and Ives that had an unquestionable influence on him.

"Adams has had an extraordinary career, and I can't think of a more interesting and varied approach to music currently going than John's," says North Carolina Symphony Vice President for Artistic Operations and General Manager Scott Freck. The Symphony wants "to show you not only how great a composer Adams is but how cumulative his music is. How it starts way back when and really is the result, right now, of all the music that's come before."

For so important a showcase, the Symphony is pulling out all the stops. Guest pianist Christopher Taylor, praised in The Washington Post as "one of the most impressive young pianists on the horizon today," performs Britten's mystical Young Apollo and a virtuoso challenge in Adams's Eros Piano. The North Carolina Master Chorale, directed by Alfred E. Sturgis, fills out the Symphony's sound for a masterwork by Beethoven, along with the centerpiece of the evening, Adams's choral tour de force Harmonium, "one of the great American masterpieces," says Llewellyn.

Adams himself returned the compliment following a Llewellyn-led performance of Harmonium by the BBC National Orchestra of Wales in 2002. The composer told BBC Music Magazine, "I was particularly impressed by the performance of Harmonium...Clearly Grant Llewellyn has a strong affinity with the piece, which is very touching."

These concerts continue the Symphony's celebrated Composer Portraits series, most recently seen in December's collaboration with PlayMakers Repertory Company. That production, a music-oriented staging of Amadeus, was hailed by the News and Observer as "one of the most inventive and successful [programs] in many a season" and by Classical Voice of North Carolina as "a masterstroke of musical theater."

Specifically designed to bring audience members closer to the music, the Composer Portraits concerts include several special opportunities to learn more about the Symphony's featured composers and their influence.

First, the premier performance of University of North Carolina School of the Arts student Leo Hurley's String Quartet No. 1-the winning entry in the Symphony's John Adams String Quartet Competition, a challenge to compose a work influenced by the composer-will be presented within a special chamber music performance by Symphony musicians, hosted by North Carolina State University professor Dr. J. Mark Scearce, in Meymandi Concert Hall on Friday, March 25, at 6:45 p.m.

Audience members can also meet the musicians involved in the performances during a pre-concert talk hosted by Catherine Brand of WUNC 91.5 FM in the lobby of Meymandi Concert Hall on Saturday, March 26, at 6:30 p.m.

The limited edition Composer Portraits book is also available, featuring an interview with John Adams and conversation between Scott Freck and Grant Llewellyn about the decisions that went into programming the concert. Visit the Symphony's "Explore the Score" page ( for more.

Regular tickets to the Duke Medicine Classical Series Raleigh performances of "Composer Portraits: John Adams" on Friday and Saturday, March 25-26, range from $30 to $60, with $30 tickets for seniors and $10 tickets for students. Meymandi Concert Hall is located in the Progress Energy Center for the Performing Arts, 2 E. South St., in Raleigh.

For tickets, program notes, podcasts, the blog and Concert/Event listings, visit the North Carolina Symphony Web site at Call North Carolina Symphony Audience Services at 919.733.2750 or toll free 877.627.6724.

The State of North Carolina has issued your Symphony an $8 million challenge; learn more at










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