Grant Park’s ‘Big Sur’ Concerto Captures the West Coast

July 19, 2008

On Wednesday, the Grant Park Orchestra under former principal conductor Hugh Wolff gave an estimated 13,000 listeners at Millennium Park a bracing shot of new American music that included the Chicago premiere of John Adams' “The Dharma at Big Sur,” a wondrous concerto for amplified violin and orchestra.

"Dharma at Big Sur" is a lyrical, ecstatic homage to the West Coast beat culture of Jack Kerouac, with the electric fiddle hammering away at irregular phrases like Pacific waves smashing the California shore, over a busy orchestra alive with gnarly rhythmic textures suggesting an Indian raga.

It got a terrific performance from Leila Josefowicz, playing from memory, pulling sounds from her six-string fiddle ranging from subterranean growls to spiraling, seagull-like cries.

John von Rhein, Chicago Tribune