On The Transmigration Of Souls...

Few events of the 21st century have shaped our political and social consciousness in the same way as the events of 11 September 2001. Pretty much everyone can remember where they where and what they were doing when they heard or saw the news regarding the attacks on the World Trade Centre and Pentagon for the first time.

For all the terrifying political consequences that day set in motion, it is the human cost that still rings the most tragic, and the impact of those gone on those left behind.

On Friday, we will be performing John Adams' On The Transmigration Of Souls. It was commissioned by the New York Philharmonic and the Lincoln Centre's Great Performers as a work of commemoration. The work does not seek to sentimentally play on the listener's emotions regarding the events of 11 September, nor is it a voyeuristic look at someone else's pain.

The work is for orchestra, children's choir, chorus and pre-recorded tape. Don't be put off by the pre-recorded tape bit - it isn't weird or wacky in anyway. It's a little bit more like a script that the music intertwines around. I find the orchestral parts really beautiful. In the opening section, there is a sense of suspended animation that gradually builds towards the agitated climax.

In many ways, it is typical of what you would expect from John Adams - lots of little repeated figures, the music building up in layers, pace coming from the diminution of rhythmical figures. On the other hand, I feel that this work has more of an emotional pull than is often associated with music that has the minimalist label attached to it. I know this is partially due to the intensity of the subject matter, but I also feel that the synthesis of parts making up On The Transmigration Of Souls creates a very powerful whole.

In an atrocity where one could be overwhelmed by sheer numbers, Adams' work makes each lost individual and each affected father, mother, sibling, spouse, child, significant. He succeeds in turning the thousands of faceless victims into significant individuals. This is no gimmicky use of recorded material, no cheap playing on an audience's emotions, but rather a sensitive, respectful, and in my opinion anyway, a beautiful memorial (or 'memory space' as the composer himself called it) to those lost, and indeed, to those left behind.

I've listened to this work a lot over the last while and am really looking forward to rehearsing and performing it. Rehearsals begin on Tuesday with our Principal Conductor, Thierry Fischer, corralling the amassed forces of choir and orchestra through not just this work, but also Beethoven's mighty Ninth Symphony which will take centre stage for the concert's second half.

Undoubtedly, On The Transmigration Of Souls is a challenging listen. It would take a very hard hearted person to not be moved in some way by it, but this is definitely a concert not to be missed.

You can catch Laura and the rest of the Orchestra in concert at St David's Hall on Friday 30 September, 7.30pm. Tickets are available by calling the Orchestra's Audience Line on 0800 052 1812, or St David's Hall on 02920 878444.


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