Melbourne Symphony Orchestra
Lawrence Renes conductor
John Adams Harmonielehre
About this performance
John Adams’ masterpiece Harmonielehre may not be a symphony by name, but it certainly is a symphony by nature. Comprised of three impressive movements, the work, led from the podium by acclaimed Dutch-Maltese conductor Lawrence Renes, is a thrilling combination of romanticism, post-minimalism and symphonic orchestration.
- Influential composer Arnold Schoenberg’s text Harmonielehre, or “Theory of Harmony”, provided the inspiration behind the name of Adams’ symphonic work. Written in 1910, Schoenberg’s text is still one of the most important tomes on music theory.
- Composed in 1985, Harmonielehre begins in a startling manner – with 39 E-minor chords. It feels relentless, and perhaps that was intended: the piece was written after a period of relentless creative block. Adams’ had a strange dream after 18 months of no writing and “after [the dream], I sat down in my studio to find, almost as if they were waiting for me, the powerful pounding E-minor chords that launch the piece.”
- The second movement makes reference to a king who appears in Parsifal – Wagner’s 1882 three-act opera – and also makes musical reference to Sibelius and Mahler.
- Conductor Lawrence Renes has been a champion of John Adams’ music throughout his career, conducting the first commercial recording of the opera Doctor Atomic with De Nederlandse Opera, and also conducting the UK premiere of the work with the English National Opera.