Blog / A chat with Samuel Adams

A chat with Samuel Adams

Posted on 14 Jun 2018 by ACO

US composer Samuel Adams standing against a wall

Movements (for us and them) is a recently commissioned work from American composer Samuel Adams, which is composed in the style of a concerto grosso. Ahead of its world premiere during our Steven Isserlis Plays Shostakovich tour, we sat down with Sam to discuss the composition’s structure and how the piece came to be.


When did you first hear about the ACO, and how did this commission come about?

A dear friend of mine was touring with the ACO back in 2013, and she invited me to their concert in my hometown of Berkeley, California. I attended the show and was completely blown away, having never heard a chamber orchestra play with such energy, precision, and flair. The commission came about through conversations with Stanford University; they had expressed interest in commissioning a new piece from me right around the time I heard the ACO and met Richard Tognetti, so it was quite serendipitous.


What drew you to the concerto grosso format?

Although my music rarely sounds “classical,” it almost always plays with and responds to historical forms. I find it endlessly fascinating to place new ideas within “old boxes” that classical audiences know very well—particularly because my music is often presented alongside canonical works, in this case from composers Shostakovich and Haydn.

I find the concerto grosso particularly interesting (and perhaps relevant, too) because it presents a kind of utopian vision for a concerto where everyone seems to “get along” and where there are no heroes, no victims, and where roles are constantly in flux.


What inspired the title "Movements (for us and them)"?

The title is a simple play on the nature of the concerto grosso, as it refers to the fluid exchange of musical ideas between the soloists (the concertino) and everyone else (the ripieno) and whose movements organically unfold without pause. It also refers to the active and physical nature of the music (there are a lot of notes!!)

Movements (for us and them) will have its World Premiere during our national Steven Isserlis plays Shostakovich tour. Full details and tickets via the link below.

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