The devastation of an enlightened mind was celebrated at the San Diego Symphony’s performance of Adams, Atoms and Planets on Dec. 4.
World-renowned Peter Oundjian was the director. He is currently the chief conductor of the Toronto Philharmonic.
The orchestra performed John Adams’s Doctor Atomic symphony, a composition as thrilling as it is loud.
Doctor Atomic is a 21st-century opera exploring physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer’s conflicted conscious during his conception of the first atomic bomb in 1945. The opera has been adapted into an exhilarating, 25-minute symphony.
Adam’s musical whirlwinds such as The Laboratory, Panic, and Trinity, capture Oppenheimer’s ravaged soul as he strove to develop the bomb which would frenzy earth.
A cacophony of carnal music – blaring trumpets and screeching violins – ravaged the delicate audience as they sat comfortably in the baroque-themed Copley Symphony Hall.
But the audience was ecstatic.
They grinned in a trancelike state and inhaled the euphoria of sounds which surrounded them as Oundjian’s baton swiftly sliced the exhausted air.
And as the symphony came to its close the trumpets and violins which were once frantically united became juxtaposed.
Violins fought vigorously; fueling the musical wildfire while trumpets sought to quench the flaming notes.
And it seemed as if the trumpets would win.
The violins began to succumb to the mellow horns, the symphony’s notes weakened, and Oppenheimer’s grim confession came to mind: “Now I am become death; the destroyer of worlds.”
But the destruction was delayed.
For the violins counterattacked; they paired with their stringed sisters.
Rich celli, deep basses, and violas united against the trumpets who were left to their own devices, unaided by their brothers of brass.
And the result was a triumph.
The strings, like rising smoke, crescendoed over the mellow trumpets until the symphony’s final notes consisted of violins erupting over compensating horns who had no choice but to join the catastrophic medley.
Thus, Oppenheimer’s bomb exploded.
The symphony ran for two days – Dec. 3 – 4. Tickets were moderately priced at around $50 a seat, but a student discount lowered the price to $5 a seat.
Adams, Atoms, and Planets is a furious thrill – and the ride is worth every penny.