We're thrilled that the Absolute Jest recording has been released! Working on and performing the piece has been exciting on many levels, from the first conversations we had with John in Paris a few years ago (when the idea of creating "Absolute Jest" was taking shape in his mind), to our performances on two sets of San Francisco Symphony subscription series in Davies Hall and additional performances on domestic and European tours with the Symphony, as well as collaborations with the London, Toronto, and New World Symphonies.
The piece was John Adams's response to an invitation from the San Francisco Symphony and Michael Tilson Thomas to compose a work for the orchestra as part of its 100th anniversary celebratory season. John had recently composed "String Quartet" for the SLSQ (renamed "First String Quartet," since he has now written "Second String Quartet" for us), and he had become excited by the idea of taking late Beethoven quartet scherzi and twisting, manipulating, and morphing them into material for an orchestral piece with solo string quartet, to be played by the SLSQ. MTT and the Symphony agreed, and "Absolute Jest " was born. After six or seven successful performances in Davies and on the road (including Carnegie Hall), John found himself dissatisfied with the opening half of the work and re-wrote the first 400 measures of music, bringing us to the current, and recorded, version of the piece.
Recording "Absolute Jest" was a very direct and straightforward experience, since it's a "recorded live in concert" release. What that means is: we gave a series of three performances of the work in Davies Hall (followed by one short "patch" session), and the recording's producer took all the raw material from those performances and edited it into the current release.
Working with John Adams has been a remarkably rewarding, exciting, and energizing experience for the SLSQ, and we're eternally grateful to him for having composed three magnificent works for us! The "Absolute Jest" adventure has been especially meaningful and thrilling, since it has given us incredible concerto opportunities (and there aren't very many quartet concerti out there!) and has led to important working relationships with MTT, the San Francisco Symphony, and other great orchestras and conductors.
The fine folks at the San Francisco Symphony have published a video trailer for the new album, so take a look. We can't wait to get back to playing this great work in Europe over the next few weeks with our friends MTT and the San Francisco Symphony. Stay tuned for updates!