"Ansel Adams: America," a piece for symphony orchestra written by 88-year-old jazz pianist Dave Brubeck and orchestrated by his son Chris Brubek, received its world premiere last night in Stockton, California, played by the Stockton Symphony conducted by Peter Jaffe. The piece took the Brubecks more than a year to write and was originally conceived by Northern California arts patron Susan Carson to be played as Adams images were projected in the concert hall.
The new work was commissioned by a consortium of seven orchestras—the Stockton Symphony, the Sacramento Philharmonic, the Fresno Philharmonic, the Monterey Symphony, the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, the Temple University Symphony Orchestra, and the Abilene Philharmonic—supported by Meet the Composer and the James Irvine Foundation.
"The merging of music and photography made perfect sense," says Chris Brubeck, "when Ms. Carson explained that Ansel Adams was well on his way to becoming a serious concert pianist until he was seduced by the beauty of Yosemite and succumbed to the lure of photography. This fact inspired me to read the wonderful book Ansel Adams, An Autobiography. In these pages I discovered that Ansel, as a young man, yearned to practice piano while in Yosemite which led him to the old Chickering upright piano at the home of the owner of Best’s Studio. While practicing there, he met, fell in love with, and eventually married the proprietor’s daughter, Virginia Best."
The composition is scored for three flutes (third flute doubling piccolo); two oboes (second oboe doubling English horn); two clarinets, bass clarinet, two bassoons, optional contrabassoon, four horns, three trumpets, three trombones, tuba, timpani, tubular bells, chimes, bass drums, drum set, suspended cymbal, tambourine, vibraphone, marimba, xylophone, triangle, finger cymbals, crash cymbals, gong, maraca, conga, snare drum, harp, piano, and strings.
Hear more (including the theme based on "An-sel A-dams") at NPR's "All Things Considered."
There's a repeat performance in Stockton this Saturday at 6 p.m., at Atherton Auditorium at San Joaquin Delta College. Tickets might still available; call the Symphony box office at (209) 951-0196.
(Thanks to Keith Barkley)