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Full Operas - Released June 29, 2018 | Nonesuch

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions Gramophone Editor's Choice - Choc de Classica - 5 Sterne Fono Forum Klassik - Preis der deutschen Schallplattenkritik
Audiences have their own favorites among the operas of John Adams, but Doctor Atomic (2005) has the advantage of being inarguably suited in its subject matter to the dimensions of grand opera: it takes for its topic the detonation of the first atomic bomb, with its first act occurring a month before the event and the second just before the successful test in New Mexico. The libretto by Peter Sellars, largely based on declassified documents, has been criticized as too choppy, but to these ears its shifts are what makes the work: it called forth an extraordinarily varied score from Adams. The music includes settings of poetry by Baudelaire, Donne, and Muriel Rukeyser, as well as the Hindu Bhagavad Gita and a traditional Tewa Native American song. Adams responded with a score that encompasses all these and never interrupts the sense of gathering doom the listener feels. Female characters -- scientist Robert Oppenheimer's wife, Kitty, and Pasqualita, a Tewa maid -- are introduced, and they only increase the variety. The work has been recorded, but this version conducted by Adams may be regarded as definitive. It is drawn mostly on a live concert performance in London that clearly made a strong connection with the audience. Gerald Finley is a gripping Oppenheimer, and all the singers put the text across immediately. You might think that British singers would be an impediment in text that often talks about American national aspirations, but it's not so: what has been called the transatlantic theatrical accent is close to the one singers of both nationalities tend to use, and after a brief suspension of disbelief you won't even think about it. Adams gets from the BBC Symphony Orchestra and BBC Singers an intense, overwrought, kaleidoscopic performance that is just what the music ordered, and Nonesuch patches together the several performances here expertly. Bravo. © TiVo
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Classical - Released May 27, 2011 | Nonesuch

Booklet Distinctions 5 de Diapason - Choc de Classica - Exceptional Sound Recording - Stereophile: Recording of the Month
In terms of the scale of his compositions, John Adams' career is somewhat anomalous for a contemporary composer. While the usual pattern tends to be for a composer to begin a career writing smaller pieces (which have a far likelier chance of being performed) and then expanding to larger forms as his or her reputation grows, Adams (with very few exceptions) was writing large-scale operas and orchestral and choral works starting in the early '80s and didn't begin devoting himself to chamber music with any regularity until the mid-'90s. This CD includes the premiere recordings of two significant chamber works from late in the first decade of the 20th century, Son of Chamber Symphony (2007) and the String Quartet (2008). While the first Chamber Symphony (1992) was a forward looking piece, incorporating new levels of textural complexity and compositional sophistication, Son of Chamber Symphony tends to look backward. Its first movement is reminiscent of the wacky energy of the original Chamber Symphony and the sinuous melodic arabesques suspended over a thrumming accompaniment of the second movement calls to mind the opening of The Death of Klinghoffer. If the third movement creates an unmistakable sense of déjà entendu, there's an explanation; it's Adams' riff on the "News" aria from Nixon in China. While Son of… may not break new ground, it's an attractive work that ought to (and probably will) achieve traction with fans of its predecessor. Adams had written an earlier string quartet, the tongue-in-cheek John's Book of Alleged Dances in 10 brief movements, but he considers this newer quartet his first serious work in the genre. It incorporates some of the irreverent whimsy of the earlier piece, but the refinement and subtlety of its development demonstrate Adams' appreciation of the string quartet as the genre in which composers have frequently distilled their most profound and essential insights and is a noteworthy contribution to the repertoire. The St. Lawrence String Quartet plays it with all the care and finesse it brings to classics of the literature and with plenty of fire. Adams leads the International Chamber Ensemble in an energetic and polished performance of Son of Chamber Symphony. Nonesuch's sound is clean, detailed, and realistically present. © TiVo
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Classical - Released April 16, 2002 | Nonesuch

Hi-Res Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography - Hi-Res Audio
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Classical - Released May 17, 2005 | Nonesuch

Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography
Naïve and Sentimental Music seems at first like a glib, almost self-deprecating title for a large-scale orchestral work. But that would be beneath John Adams, who has a knack for infusing his appealing soundscapes with weight and philosophy. In fact, Adams uses the word "sentimental" here to convey self-awareness, even self-consciousness. And so the title -- and indeed, the entire piece -- is a deliberate study in the balance and integration of opposites: innocence with perspective, spontaneity with design, and beauty with rhetoric. The result is a tremendous success; Naïve and Sentimental Music is a wealth of ideas sculpted into musical form and yet the listener needs no knowledge of these ideas to hear it to its fullest effect. Since Esa-Pekka Salonen gave Adams the commission that led to Naïve and Sentimental Music, it is no surprise that he and the L.A. Philharmonic deliver an outstanding performance on this Nonesuch release. Every layer of sound is beautifully textured and realized, from the strings -- sometimes icy, sometimes agitated -- to the evocative percussion that dots the entire score with color. David Tanenbaum's amplified guitar adds an especially interesting element to the second movement, "Mother of the Man"; he, Salonen, and the engineers should be complimented for integrating the guitar into the score while still allowing it to stand apart as an individual in a bigger world. The first and third movements are equally successful, each taking on its distinctive mood and character while at the same time feeling like part of a greater whole. This is, in every way, an outstanding recording. © TiVo
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Classical - Released January 2, 2000 | Nonesuch

Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography
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Opera - Released December 25, 2006 | Nonesuch

El Niño is an ambitious project that could have easily become overblown in execution, but thankfully that is not the case. This warm and sometimes moving oratorio humanizes the Nativity story by emphasizing Mary's perspective and the miracle of birth. The texts are in English, Spanish, and Latin and are based on a variety of sources, including the New Testament Apocrypha and contemporary Latin American poetry. The music also incorporates a wide range of styles and influences, including jazz, show tunes, and Handel's "Messiah," but it coheres under Adams' distinctive rhythmic approach. It begins with the steady repetition of a D minor chord, followed by the introduction of polyrhythms and dissonance, as well as countertenors Brian Cummings and Dan Brubeck. Both of them, as well as the third countertenor, Steven Rickards, give golden performances on this album. The same is true for the three soloists, mezzo soprano Lorraine Hunt Lieberson, soprano Dawn Upshaw, and baritone Willard White, who are all cast in flexible roles. For example, Upshaw sings the role of the Virgin Mary in the second piece, "Hail, Mary, Gracious!" (adapted from The Play of Annunciation from Martial Rose's version of The Wakefield Mystery Plays), and mezzo soprano Lieberson gives a fiery performance in the same role in the third piece, "La Anunciacion," which is based on the poetry of Rosario Castellanos (who is also the source of "Se Habla de Gabriel," "Memorial de Tlatelolco," and "A Palm Tree"). The next three pieces, including "Magnificat" (which features an assured, sensitive performance by Upshaw), draw on St. Luke for their text. White makes his first appearance as Joseph on the seventh piece, "Now She Was Sixteen Years Old," and also appears as Herod later on; he effectively conveys both Joseph's confusion and Herod's anger in his forceful performances. The more reflective second half of this album isn't as immediately accessible as the first, and sometimes suffers from cursory narrative passages, but it also benefits from delicate touches and mostly preserves the emotional power of the first half. © TiVo
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Classical - Released September 25, 2006 | Nonesuch

The two works on this album reflect the West Coast and Northeastern sides of John Adams' musical personality. He has fused the two tendencies with uncommon elegance over the years, but here he allows himself the latitude to pay more direct homage to several predecessors who influenced him. The Dharma at Big Sur is a concerto for electric six-string violin and orchestra in two movements. Its most immediately striking aspect is the violin itself, played here by the performer who originated the work, Tracy Silverman. It encompasses the range of a violin plus a cello, and it's capable of extended dynamic range and of tones that range from the traditional melancholy to rock aggression. The work was composed for the opening of the new Disney Hall in Los Angeles, the acoustically strong new downtown home of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, and Adams wrote into it subtle orchestral effects as well, deep layers of sound that emerge only intermittently. Adams dutifully described his piece as an evocation of the mystical, somewhat melancholy awe that the Easterner feels on experiencing Big Sur for the first time, but really there is not much in the music that evokes the oceanside. Instead, Adams draws on the music of California composer Lou Harrison, a major inspiration to all the composers with roots in the minimalist movement and a pioneer in transferring the principles of Asian musical traditions to the Western orchestra. His first movement, "A New Day," is akin to a juiced-up Indian instrumental improvisation, with the orchestra very subtly deployed in order to produce drones, sympathetic vibrations, and a final buildup of intensity. The energetic, jazzy second movement, "Sri Moonshine," is the one with the Indian name, but its consistent textures suggest the work of an American composer, Californian Terry Riley. The homages paid in the album's other work, My Father Knew Charles Ives, are more explicit. Adams himself refers to the three movements as "three more 'places' in New England," and the Ivesian mix of programmatic suggestion and spiritual transcendence, which also played a key role in Adams' 9/11 work, On the Transmigration of Souls, is on full display here. The final movement, "The Mountain," is a particularly awe-inspiring expression of the philosophy once stated by the country vocal trio the Sons of the Pioneers -- that "Mountains are altars of God" (in a song called "The Place Where I Worship Is the Wide-Open Spaces"). As he does with his West Coast models in The Dharma at Big Sur, Adams extends Ives' language so that the music sounds like something completely his own; here he uses no electronic instruments, but the background is filled with swing jazz and other music Ives did not know during his compositional career. Adams himself leads the BBC Symphony, which responds beautifully to these complex scores that never sound overblown. The recordings are the product of some high-tech tweaking at two studios on the frontiers of sound, Abbey Road and Skywalker, but the end result is magnificent transparency. This is marvelous new music, colorful, spiritual, fun, accessible to anyone, yet full of the lines of connection that hold together and extend a tradition. © TiVo
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Classical - Released May 4, 1999 | Nonesuch

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Classical - Released April 15, 1987 | Nonesuch

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World - Released May 4, 2004 | Rhino - Warner Records

Composer John Adams' album Road Movies contains five pieces that Adams' considers "travel music, (...) passing through harmonic and textural regions as one would pass through on a car trip." Indeed, during Leila Josefowicz's spirited and appropriately brusque reading of the "40% Swing" movement from the title work, one hears what sounds like a passing auto in the left channel. Is it mere coincidence or the album concept channeling onto the master tape? Three of the pieces here appear on recordings for the first time, Road Movies for violin and piano (1995), Hallelujah Junction for two pianos, and American Berserk for piano (2001). The balance is given to the already familiar China Gates and Phrygian Gates played by pianists Nicolas Hodges and Rolf Hind, respectively, who join forces in the four-hand work. Actually, it's been a long time since there was a whole disc made up of chamber and/or keyboard works from Adams, who has been concentrating on orchestral music and pieces for ensembles. As such, this is a real treat -- the playing is expert on all counts, and the newer pieces sit comfortably side by side with the older ones, which are given a fresh perspective in these new recordings. While it may not be the album that never leaves your car stereo -- American Berserk is raucous enough that it could prove quite distracting during a traffic jam -- Road Movies is an immensely enjoyable collection that never runs out of gas. © TiVo
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Classical - Released May 4, 2004 | Nonesuch

Composer John Adams' album Road Movies contains five pieces that Adams' considers "travel music, (...) passing through harmonic and textural regions as one would pass through on a car trip." Indeed, during Leila Josefowicz's spirited and appropriately brusque reading of the "40% Swing" movement from the title work, one hears what sounds like a passing auto in the left channel. Is it mere coincidence or the album concept channeling onto the master tape? Three of the pieces here appear on recordings for the first time, Road Movies for violin and piano (1995), Hallelujah Junction for two pianos, and American Berserk for piano (2001). The balance is given to the already familiar China Gates and Phrygian Gates played by pianists Nicolas Hodges and Rolf Hind, respectively, who join forces in the four-hand work. Actually, it's been a long time since there was a whole disc made up of chamber and/or keyboard works from Adams, who has been concentrating on orchestral music and pieces for ensembles. As such, this is a real treat -- the playing is expert on all counts, and the newer pieces sit comfortably side by side with the older ones, which are given a fresh perspective in these new recordings. While it may not be the album that never leaves your car stereo -- American Berserk is raucous enough that it could prove quite distracting during a traffic jam -- Road Movies is an immensely enjoyable collection that never runs out of gas. © TiVo
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Jazz Fusion & Jazz Rock - Released January 1, 2006 | Congruent Music Co

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Classical - Released January 8, 2007 | Nonesuch

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Classical - Released November 1, 2005 | Nonesuch

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Classical - Released November 1, 2005 | Nonesuch

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Classical - Released January 23, 2007 | Nonesuch

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World - Released May 17, 2005 | Rhino - Warner Records

Composer John Adams and lyricist/librettist June Jordan took as inspiration for their musical I Was Looking at the Ceiling and Then I Saw the Sky the Northridge earthquake of 1994; the title is based on a quotation from a survivor that Jordan culled from the Los Angeles Times. The more general inspiration was L.A. itself, however, as Jordan weaved an ensemble drama examining the lives of seven contemporary Los Angelenos: a young black man; his girlfriend, an illegal Hispanic immigrant; a young black minister with a wandering eye; one of his female parishioners; a white rookie cop not quite ready to confront his homosexuality; a white TV news anchorwoman wondering why the cop isn't paying enough attention to her; and a first-generation son of Vietnamese boat people who has become a public defender. Their lives intersect in a period leading up to an earthquake that changes those lives drastically. The show was first produced in 1995; this studio cast recording, made in 1996 and 1997, retains only two members of the original cast, Darius de Haas as David, the minister, and Welly Yang as Rick, the public defender. Otherwise, the cast has undergone some upgrading, at least in terms of name recognition, with Broadway stars Audra McDonald and Marin Mazzie stepping into the roles of Consuelo, the illegal immigrant, and Tiffany, the anchorwoman. The episodic nature of the plot and the differing ethnicities allow Adams to try many different musical styles. After beginning with the title song, which is in the familiar repetitive style of Philip Glass, Adams incorporates elements of rock, pop, blues, and gospel in appropriate ways in the successive tracks, albeit without actually using the styles to create satisfying popular music. He comes closest in the lusty trio number for the three women, "Song About the Bad Boys and the News," and in the duet for David and his potential new girlfriend Leila (Angela Teek), "Three Weeks and Still I'm Outta My Mind," which has something of the flavor of a Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell performance. He is constrained, however, by the demands of the plot, which is trying to pack a lot of social commentary into a single musical. As a show and as a record, the work is ambitious, but somewhat overstuffed. © William Ruhlmann /TiVo
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World - Released May 17, 2005 | Rhino - Warner Records

Naïve and Sentimental Music seems at first like a glib, almost self-deprecating title for a large-scale orchestral work. But that would be beneath John Adams, who has a knack for infusing his appealing soundscapes with weight and philosophy. In fact, Adams uses the word "sentimental" here to convey self-awareness, even self-consciousness. And so the title -- and indeed, the entire piece -- is a deliberate study in the balance and integration of opposites: innocence with perspective, spontaneity with design, and beauty with rhetoric. The result is a tremendous success; Naïve and Sentimental Music is a wealth of ideas sculpted into musical form and yet the listener needs no knowledge of these ideas to hear it to its fullest effect. Since Esa-Pekka Salonen gave Adams the commission that led to Naïve and Sentimental Music, it is no surprise that he and the L.A. Philharmonic deliver an outstanding performance on this Nonesuch release. Every layer of sound is beautifully textured and realized, from the strings -- sometimes icy, sometimes agitated -- to the evocative percussion that dots the entire score with color. David Tanenbaum's amplified guitar adds an especially interesting element to the second movement, "Mother of the Man"; he, Salonen, and the engineers should be complimented for integrating the guitar into the score while still allowing it to stand apart as an individual in a bigger world. The first and third movements are equally successful, each taking on its distinctive mood and character while at the same time feeling like part of a greater whole. This is, in every way, an outstanding recording. © TiVo
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Film Soundtracks - Released June 11, 2010 | Nonesuch

Luca Guadagnino's 2009 film I Am Love features the music of John Adams for its soundtrack. Without seeing the film it's hard to know how such high-profile music could keep from overpowering what's going on onscreen, but the music must be used with discretion and appropriateness because reviews of the film (which almost universally describe it as "operatic") have been largely very positive. In any case, the soundtrack makes a terrific introduction to a variety of Adams' works written between 1978 and 1996, arguably the composer's most productive and significant creative period. Several complete short works are included (The Chairman Dances and Lollapalooza) as well as complete movements from larger works (Shaker Loops, The Death of Klinghoffer, Harmonielehre), and excerpts from Century Rolls and Fearful Symmetries. The pieces represent the Trickster and "serious" aspects of Adams' creative temperament, from the rambunctiously wacky Lollapalooza to the profound and meditative "The Anfortas Wound" and the serene, sublimely ecstatic "Meister Eckhardt" and "Quackie," both from Harmonielehre. The performances and engineering are absolutely superb. These tracks all come from Nonesuch's archives, and most are the original (and often definitive) performances of these pieces. The soundtrack is a reminder of the brilliance of the music Adams produced from the late '70s to the 1990s, and besides introducing new listeners to the composer, could whet the appetite of his fans to pull out their complete versions of these works and get reacquainted © Stephen Eddins /TiVo