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Short Ride in a Grand Pianola

May 1, 2008

Last night’s concert by the Jerry Junkin and the UT Wind Ensemble was intense. This was the final concert of John Adams’ residency at UT, and the group opened with his Short Ride in a Fast Machine (which I know well, but had never heard live), and followed up with his Grand Pianola music, both of which were really, really good. Junkin maintained an unbelievably intense pace and conducting style throughout, and the ensemble was obviously on top of their game – both works are quite difficult, but they pulled it off with ease. And that was just the first half. At intermission, they added one or two chairs for: the UT choir (big), a children’s choir from Hill Country Middle School, and three soloists, in addition to the enter wind ensemble for Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana. This is a transcription of the entire work for band – I believe it’s fairly new, but not sure. From the very first O Fortuna it exuded epic-ness (epicity? epicality?), and didn’t let up for a full hour. Just to top it all off, Junkin conducted the entire work from memory. Because really, why not?

It was spectacular, and special shout-out to V and Franklin Gross for their piano artistry in the concert!

Fun side-note: V and I were John Adams’ taxi back to his hotel in the afternoon, and can report that he’s an extremely down-to-earth and friendly man. I neglected to make any jokes about it being a “short ride in an old machine” (namely, my 12 year old Saturn). Probably for the best.