Magazine article Gramophone

Adams

Magazine article Gramophone

Adams

Article excerpt

Adams

City noir (a). The Gospel According to the Other Mary (b). Harmonielehre (c). Lollapalooza (d). Scheherazade. (2e). Short Ride in a Fast Machine (d). The Wound-Dresser (e)

(b) Kelley O'Connor mez (b) Tamara Mumford contr (b) Daniel Bubeck, (b) Brian Cummings, (b) Nathan Medley countertens (b) Peter Hoare ten (e) Georg Nigl bar (e) Leila Josefowicz vn (a) Timothy McAllister alto sax (b) Berlin Radio Chorus; Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra / (ce) John Adams, (a) Gustavo Dudamel, (d) Alan Gilbert, (e) Kirill Petrenko, (b) Sir Simon Rattle Berliner Philharmoniker (F) (6) (4) + (2) [BR] BPHR170141 (4h 58' + 6h 36 * DDD * T)

Recorded live at the Philharmonie, Berlin, 2016-17 Concert video Blu-ray discs include interviews and documentary 'Short Rides with John Adams'

Like its politics, the buffeting turbulence of culture in the United States today is difficult to describe to anyone who hasn't experienced it first-hand. The unruly chorus of contending and contentious voices is of course a given. But of the musicians I know, the one who comes closest to mirroring the often baffling complexities and contradictions of the contemporary American condition is John Adams. Moreover, he's been doing it for decades with a kind of determined, fearless joy.

Adams, a born-and-bred New Englander who early on put down deep roots in California, turned 70 last year. During 2016-17 he was named the Berlin Philharmonic's composer-in-residence and this handsomely packaged release represents the fruits of that collaboration. The Philharmonic with various soloists present stunning performances of seven pieces composed by Adams between 1985 and 2015, under five distinguished conductors including the composer. All were recorded live at the Berlin Philharmonie and may be viewed as well as heard on two sumptuously produced Blu-ray discs.

In the classic 1966 essay 'Against Interpretation', the late Susan Sontag defended appreciation of what she called the art object's 'sensuous surface'. It is precisely the multifaceted, gem-like surfaces of the mighty Harmonielehre that make it the most recorded of Adams's large-scale orchestral works. It may also be the earliest work to cement his place among the great orchestrators, that select company dating back to Berlioz, Liszt, Strauss and Mahler. But beyond its magisterial exploration of orchestral space, density, depth and timbre, Harmonielehre is a visionary work of tremendous emotional range and power. The Berliners acquit themselves magnificently in a virtuoso performance under Adams's baton, who here records the piece for the first time. Purity of sound, rhythmic precision and attention to detail make this a recording quite unlike any other to date. If there's no experience quite like hearing Harmonielehre live in a hall, this is certainly a very close second, due in no small measure to the brilliant sound engineering.

Adams also conducts the most recent work in the set, Scheherazade.2, with the incomparable Leila Josefowicz, for whom it was composed, as violin soloist. Subtitled a 'dramatic symphony', a la Berlioz, this contemporary reimagining of the storyteller of the Arabian Nights as an empowered, strong, 21st-century woman in conflict with a cruelly oppressive and doctrinaire male establishment, for all its sensual allure, is gripping. Throughout the symphony's four movements Josefowicz, Adams and the Berliners achieve an almost symbiotic singularity of will. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.