John Adams has become the face of new music for a certain sector of the population. That sector includes presenters.
There might be composers who are better known or more prolific — although not many — but Adams has developed a distinctive sideline as a programmer. He not only writes a lot of music, but he also knows a lot about music, and he can even, to a point, conduct music. He has brought those skills together in a number of mini-festivals across the country, most recently at the Library of Congress.
This past weekend saw the last two nights of a four-day Adams celebration, with the composer himself taking the stage Friday night to conduct works by Schoenberg, Stravinsky and himself.
You couldn’t have asked for better performers; the musicians of the International Contemporary Ensemble are crack players. They needed to be. Although Adams has become a not-infrequent guest on orchestral podiums — he’ll lead the National Symphony Orchestra later this week — conducting is not his strongest suit. He brings a lot of energy and intelligence to music, which is undeniably engaging, but he’s weaker on balances and dynamics — meaning that the evening was loud and boisterous, a regular golden retriever of a contemporary program.