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American Elegies

4.5 out of 5 stars 6 customer reviews

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Audio CD, March 5, 1991
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Product Details

  • Performer: Dawn Upshaw, Paul Crossley
  • Orchestra: Orchestra of St. Luke's
  • Conductor: John Adams
  • Composer: Charles Ives, Ingram Marshall, Morton Feldman, John Adams, David Diamond
  • Audio CD (March 5, 1991)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Elektra Nonesuch
  • ASIN: B000005J0I
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #127,138 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Audio CD
When I was in Dr. Knowles music appreciation class in college, I questioned the validity of modern 'art' music, because I didn't understand it (then). Silly me. He recommended John Adams. The local music store, which was stocked heavily with rap and techno and the like, was very limited in their classical selections. This was the only one they had, so I took a chance and bought it. Talk about opening my eyes (and ears).... the vocal works are absolutely mind blowing. Fog Tropes was a little creepy, but it definitely grew on me. You can call this my gateway CD, because I've been searching out 20th century since then. Thanks Dr. Knowles. :)
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Phillip Scott in Fanfare Magazine recently selected this CD for inclusion in Fanfare's 'Hall of Fame'. Choices are completely personal, and sometimes, very strange, but in this case, I totally agree with Mr. Scott. I've owned this disc for many years and I seem to 'rediscover' it every now and again. Adams' performance of Ive's "The Unanswered Question" is still my favorite, but the piece I find most haunting is Morton Feldman's 'Madam Press Died Last Week at Ninety'.

Feldman has never been a composer I've warmed to, but this piece with its recurring cuckoo clock is haunting, unsettling and, for this listener, totally unforgettable. Instead of reviewing each work on the album, I've included Mr. Scott's very balanced and compelling review.

"This disc was recorded in 1989, when John Adams was newly celebrated as the composer of Nixon in China but unfamiliar as a conductor, and soprano Dawn Upshaw was in the early stages of her distinguished career. I have returned to it often over the intervening years because it presents an imaginatively structured program with a unique atmosphere, beautifully recorded and superbly performed.

You would think any collection of American elegies involving a chamber orchestra might include Barber’s Adagio for Strings, but this program is both more far-reaching and, conversely, less generalized in scope. It seems to me to bring together a group of elegies for bygone American eras, whether they be the simple (or apparently simple) hymn-dominated world of Ives’s songs, the literal evocation of foghorns in Ingram Marshall’s Fog Tropes for brass sextet and tape, or the austere 1930s bitonality of David Diamond’s heartfelt Elegy in Memory of Maurice Ravel for strings and percussion.
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Format: Audio CD
With this country once again stunned by a yet another war, we find ourselves in a place where solace and nurturing are necessary and deeply needed. This collection of American composers' works that span a century has been lovingly assembled by John Adams and is performed by the usually conductorless Orchestra of St Lukes here under Adams' direction. The disc opens with the hauntingly beautiful Charles Ives' THE UNANSWERED QUESTION and proceeds with five of his best loved songs for voice and small orchestra performed with subtle clarity and undersatement by Dawn Upshaw in tandem with the orchestra. The last of these songs 'Serenity' blooms into the Ingram Marshall moody and exspansive exploration of fog and foghorns in FOG TROPES. Morton Feldman's quietly simple elegy for his piano teacher 'MADAME PRESS DIED LAST WEEK AT NINETY' is followed with John Adams own 'EROS PIANO', a work written as a memoriam/elegy at the death of Morton Feldman. The disc closes with David Diamond's plangent orchestral work 'ELEGY IN MEMORY OF MAURICE RAVEL'. Only on a CD could such programming exist and we are indebted to John Adams for creating this tenderly profound concert which, though recorded in 1989, seems immensely suitable for listening to today.
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