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 Search Beat > Arts > Music > Styles > Classical Music > Featured Composer > John Adams


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biography
Generally considered a charter member of the minimalist composers circle, Adams (b. 1947) has long seemed out of place with Philip Glass, Steve Reich, and Terry Riley. His operas, while based on newsworthy contemporary events rather than age-old fables, are certainly American--and tightly focused--in character, but his chamber and concerto works are big in both design and sound. Here are his essential recordings.
recommended recordings
Adams: The Death of Klinghoffer / Nagano, Sylvan, Maddalena
Composer: John Adams
Conductor: Kent Nagano
Performer: Janice Felty, Stephanie Friedman, et al.
Ensemble: London Opera Chorus, Lyon Opera Orchestra
Wea/Atlantic/Nonesuch - #79281 / November 2, 1992

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In The Death of Klinghoffer (1991), John Adams turns his cascading minimalism to the tragedy of the Achille Lauro. This spacious recording makes grand what seems so minor in the great scheme of things: a group of terrorists hijack an ocean liner and kill a wheelchair-bound Jewish retiree, Leon Klinghoffer. If the conceit of Adams' earlier opera, Nixon in China, seems a bit incredulous (Richard Nixon as opera subject?), The Death of Klinghoffer is genuine tragedy--Greek chorus and all. Alice...Read more


Adams: Violin Concerto, etc / Kremer, Nagano, Adams
Composer: John Adams
Conductor: Kent Nagano, John Adams
Performer: Gidon Kremer
Ensemble: London Symphony Orchestra, Orchestra of St. Luke's
Wea/Atlantic/Nonesuch - #79360 / April 9, 1996

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Turned loose on John Adams's surprisingly flexible violin concerto, the team of conductor Kent Nagano and soloist Gidon Kremer do justice to its passionate verve. Nagano leads the London Symphony Orchestra to the point of near-explosion as it approaches Kremer's sluicing take on the work. Kremer hits the right slipping scales and sometimes slashing skids like magic, with the orchestra seeping into the sound and leaping forward for Kremer to chase.

The sound is effusively rich and far distant...Read more


Adams: El Dorado; Liszt, Busoni / John Adams, Kent Nagano
Composer: John Adams, Ferruccio Busoni, et al.
Conductor: Kent Nagano, John Adams
Ensemble: HallŽ Orchestra, London Sinfonietta
Wea/Atlantic/Nonesuch - #79359 / October 15, 1996

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John Adams's El Dorado is in some ways program music, with a twist. It's an imaginary accompaniment, he writes in the liner essay, to a diptych with the unmolested nature of the New World in one panel and that same world with man in it in the other panel. Certainly Adams's characterization of the piece's drama is apt, as it indeed bursts with fierceness at exactly the point where man comes to believe in dominating and subjugating nature, where any hint of the romantic tradition crashes headlong...Read more


Adams: Fearful Symmetries, Wound-Dresser / Adams, Sylvan

Composer: John Adams
Conductor: John Adams
Performer: Sanford Sylvan
Ensemble: Orchestra of St. Luke's
Wea/Atlantic/Nonesuch - #79218 / October 31, 1989

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This 1989 release became an unexpected surprise hit, primarily because of the extraordinary tone poem The Wound Dresser. Written to Walt Whitman's poem of the same name, it deals with Whitman's musings on the Civil War. There is hardly a hint of Adams's traditional (and usually blithe) minimalistic impulses here. This is the "dark" side of the composer that is to surface later in his opera The Death of Klinghoffer. Fearful Symmetries, the companion piece here, is more typical of Adams; it's a...Read more


Adams: Harmonielehre, etc / Rattle, City of Birmingham SO

Composer: John Adams
Conductor: Simon Rattle
Performer: Jonathan Holland, Wesley Warren
Ensemble: City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra
Emd/Emi Classics - #55051 / April 12, 1994

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Eclectic and exciting
Some believe that San Francisco has the best "Short Ride." I disagree. The CBSO is just as convincing and a little more aggressive, a quality for which the piece begs. Of particular delight to me is the coupling of it with "Tromba Lontana" - the works are published together as... Read more


works & recordings
Browse John Adams
resources

    John Adams - Biography - Biography, selected discography, work list, reviews, upcoming performances.

    John Adams - Biography, work list, sound clips, performance list.

    John Adams - Biography, discography.

    Adams, John - Features a biographical article, list of works with program notes, and discography.

    The John Adams Pages - Information, discography, pictures, sound files (fan page by Pete Saville)



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