American Identity

Susanna Mälkki conducts American music by Ives, Perry and Adams

Susanna Mälkki is leading the orchestra in works by three very different, yet all quintessentially American, composers. What connects them? In addition to music by Charles Ives and Julia Perry, John Adams’s Violin Concerto is being performed with Leila Josefowicz in the leading role.

American Identity
dates and tickets

Susanna Mälkki is leading the orchestra in works by three very different, yet all quintessentially American, composers. What connects them? In addition to music by Charles Ives and Julia Perry, John Adams’s Violin Concerto is being performed with Leila Josefowicz in the leading role.

Besides being a tireless champion of contemporary music, Leila Josefowicz is above all a great violinist.

Dates and tickets

About this concert

The Concertgebouworkest has organised all its concert programmes in January to reflect the theme ‘Made in America’.

American composers did not seek out their own musical identity until very late. The use of popular music and jazz converged with the influential neoclassical style imported from Europe in the early twentieth century. Listening to the works of Charles Ives, Julia Perry and John Adams, whose lifetimes together span nearly a century, and recognising them now as distinctly American-sounding have much to do with all these developments.

Susanna Mälkki conducts Charles Ives’s Symphony No. 2, a work brimming with familiar and lesser-known melodies. Symphonic collages incorporating popular songs which coloured the memories of his youth in New England, as well as the music of Bach, Beethoven and Wagner prove that Ives was far ahead of his time around 1900.

Julia Perry, too, incorporated the folk music of her youth in her music – in her case mainly African American spirituals. Perry’s career got off to a promising start, but her work eventually faded into oblivion. A Short Piece for Orchestra shows just how undeserved that was: this exciting work showcases a wholly original voice in American music.

In his Violin Concerto, the world-famous American composer John Adams allowed melody back into his rhythmically pulsing music for the first time in years. And how! The solo violin threads one soaring melody to the next. Very few violinists are capable of performing this extremely difficult work. Fortunately, there’s Leila Josefowicz, a tireless champion of contemporary music, and above all a great violinist who never shirks from a challenge. 

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