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Adams: Doctor Atomic Symphony; Guide to Strange Places CD
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I'm strangely moved by the power of Doctor Atomic Symphony. For one thing, the Doctor Atomic Symphony is the exemplar of how far Adams has taken `process music' and integrated minimalist moves within the larger landscape of orchestral music. His orchestration summons flavors colorful as Ravel, dark as Mussorgsky, as grand as Mahler.
Guide To Strange Places is another strong Adams work, if somewhat typical and easily identifiable as his work. He again demonstrates a skillful and varied hand at orchestration. It opens with strings sawing and swirling punctuated, rather, propelled by slashes of basses and low horns, then tinkles and trumpets atop. It's a whirligig of movement. Other parts slam chunks of hard material at busy-bird Messiaen-ic strings.
The booklet includes the best-written and informative liner notes, by Jeremy Denk, I've seen in a long while. It presents a blow-by-blow technical and descriptive analysis of both works which any layman can understand.Read more ›
The album begins with a symphonic suite derived from Adam's opera Doctor Atomic. Most of us of a certain age are familiar with the tragic story of J. [Julius] Robert Oppenheimer and the Manhattan Project. The opera and symphony focuses on the period before the first atomic test explosion and all the doubts and fears of what might occur. The music is filled with dread, energy, power, and future repercussions. The liner notes, written by Jeremy Denk, give a thorough musical analysis of both works like some baseball radio narrator. Both compositions are, in essence, tone poems: impressions of imagined places and historic situations. They are adventurous scoring, and give us another Age of Anxiety, mysterious, uncertain, and contemporary.
The liner notes try really hard to link the music to the opera (triads are atoms! brass chords are explosions!), but I thought the point of the Symphony is to let the music stand on its own?
Having ranted enough, the third movement, "Trinity", is an unexpected pleasure, probably because it focuses on limited material. Here, Adams takes the best aria from the opera and makes it loads better by replacing an overly dramatic singer (you know how opera singers can be...) with a doleful trumpet. It's Adams finally showing his unique genius that's missing from a good chunk of the opera.
Even though the headliner of the disc is the Symphony, I thought Guide to Strange Places stole the show. Why did it take so long to record?? At times there are hints of Messiaen's Turangalila, others parts point the way forward from his works from the late 1990's. Maybe the first few minutes are a perpetual motion as suggested in the liner notes, but the middle section slows down to reveal a cragged, slightly desolate landscape. It never regains that full steam from the introduction, and has that classic, slightly enigmatic ending that Adams writes in so many works, as if there's more to come, but never does.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Very interesting music - wonderfully played and recorded. I'm still getting used to it, but John Adams is growing on me. Read morePublished 19 months ago by Donald C. Bingaman
To an extent, I tend to agree with the three-star reviewer of 08/17/09, though I think I liked the music a bit more than he did. Read morePublished on July 16, 2013 by J. R. Trtek
I think I like this CD. I have heard other music by John Adams, and I always take a bit of time to adjust to his unique style. Read morePublished on May 1, 2010 by Sandra Collins