RSNO/Oundjian/Doric String Quartet

Absolute Jest/Naive and Sentimental Music


THE leave-taking of music director Peter Oundjian from the RSNO has had a series of way-markers, of which this second disc of the music of John Adams, recorded over three days at Glasgow Royal Concert Hall at the end of last summer should not be overlooked. A follow-up to the Dr Atomic Symphony disc on Chandos, it confirms the team as first rank interpreters of the composer’s music.

The better-known and larger work, Naïve and Sentimental Music, might draw more purchasers, and they will not be disappointed with a recording that is a little brighter and sharper than the first one by its dedicatee Esa-Pekka Salonen and the Los Angeles Phil on Nonesuch, and features Scotland’s award-winning guitar virtuoso Sean Shibe. But for Adams aficionados the greater interest may lie with the newer work, previously recorded by the San Francisco Philharmonic and the St Lawrence Quartet under Michael Tilson Thomas, paired with his Grand Pianola Music of 30 years earlier.

Here the balance between the incisive playing of the quartet and the orchestra seems better realised, and there is an irresistible building momentum in the performance. The roots of the work lie in Beethoven, specifically the late quartets and his Symphony No. 9, and while recognising those borrowed themes in the score is not essential to enjoyment of the Adams, it may helpfully send some contemporary music fans back to check out his inspiration.

Keith Bruce