Magazine article Gramophone

Adams: Absolute Jest

Magazine article Gramophone

Adams: Absolute Jest

Article excerpt

Adams

Absolute Jest (a). Grand Pianola Music (b) (b) Orli Shaham, (b) Marc-Andre Hamelin pfs bSynergy Vocals; (a) St Lawrence Quartet; San Francisco Symphony Orchestra / (a) Michael Tilson Thomas, (b) John Adams

Recorded live at Davies Symphony Hall, San Francisco, (a) May 4,5 & 9,2013; (b) January 16-18,2015 SFS Media (F) SFS0063 (58' * DDD/DSD)

Three decades separate John Adams's Absolute Jest from his Grand Pianola Music, the two works sharing a preoccupation with Beethoven's place in the modern world and with unusually constituted ensembles. The combination of string quartet with orchestra allows Adams access all areas to the instrumental materials Beethoven gravitated towards during his later period; Absolute Jest, he tells us, is a colossal 25-minute scherzo celebrating Beethoven's 'energy and feeling'--rebutting what he describes as the 'coldness' of modernism.

Grand Pianola Music, too, is an exuberant, larger-than-life freefall through musical history, the off-the-leash arpeggios typical of Beethoven's late piano sonatas bumping into Liszt then, controversially, ending up glittering like Liberace's candelabra. Adams's naughtiest piece has been well documented on record. His own 1994 recording with the London Sinfonietta played the notes; the Netherlands Wind Ensemble under Stephen Mosko ran more convincingly amok with its Rik Mayall two-finger salute-waving mischief. And so it's good to have this second view from Adams himself. …

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