John Adams (1947)

Although some musician friends, whose opinion and expertise I highly value, told me that Adams’ music was genius, I haven’t always been convinced. It’s not the repetition I mind – like everbody, I love Ravel’s Bolero -, it’s the simplistic, sweet and saccharine harmonies that go with it. There’s an orchestral lushness in Adams’ orchestral works that, like everybody else, I am partial to, and I’m in no doubt that, under its simplistic harmonic surface the music is is highly sophisticated, but I still find the surface deceptively simplistic and sentimental, and I cringe when I hear music that seems to pull all too conspicuously on the sentimental strings – I don’t like to be taken for an emotional puppet. Of late Adams has moved away, or beyond, mere repetitive minimalism (witness his Violin Concerto), but in favor of what? neo-Barber? I’m not sure it’s a gain. But I’m not giving up on Adams: if everybody says he’s a genius, there might be an element of truth in the claim. So I still give him credit and try.

So far I’ve reviewed… not that much:

China Gates by Alan Feinberg in his recital on Argo, “The American Innovator”

Pavane: She’s so fine from John’s Book of Alleged Dances (1994), by The Smith Quartet in their recital on Signum Classics, “Dance” (recorded September 2009 & January 2010).

Violin Concerto by Gidon Kremer, the London Symphony Orchestra, Kent Nagano (recorded June 1994), paired with Shaker Loops for String Orchestra, by the Orchestra of St. Luke’s, Adams (recorded November 1988), on Elektra-Nonesuch

The Chairman Dances by the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, David Zinman (recorded April 1994) in “Dance Mix” on Argo, with works of Bernstein, Kernis, Torke, Moran, Daugherty, Rouse, Argento etc.

For the short introduction to Adams, as usual visit his entry on Wikipedia. For more, see what I think is his own website.

Comments are welcome