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Harmonium [Original recording reissued]

John Adams , Edo de Waart , San Francisco Symphony Orchestra & Choru Audio CD
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)

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MP3 Music, 2 Songs, 2000 $11.49  
Audio CD, Original recording reissued, 2000 --  

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Song TitleArtist Time Price
listen  1. Adams: Harmonium (for large orchestra and chorus) - Part 1 - Negative LoveSan Francisco Symphony10:38Album Only
listen  2. Adams: Harmonium (for large orchestra and chorus) - Part 2 - Because I Could Not Stop For Death - Wild NightsSan Francisco Symphony21:38Album Only

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Frequently Bought Together

Harmonium + Adams: On the Transmigration of Souls + John Adams: Harmonielehre / The Chairman Dances / Tromba Lontana / Short Ride in a Fast Machine
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Product Details

  • Orchestra: San Francisco Symphony Orchestra & Choru
  • Conductor: Edo de Waart
  • Composer: John Adams
  • Audio CD (April 18, 2000)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Format: Original recording reissued
  • Label: ECM Records
  • ASIN: B00002473K
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #144,471 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Harmonium is John Adams's breakthrough work. After experimenting with a number of different styles, he settled on consonance and simplicity, and became famous upon the work's premiere in 1981. It exemplifies his music--a listener-friendly West Coast minimalism using tasteful, keyboards-enhanced instrumentation and having a generally mellow sound. Adams harmonizes seemingly disparate parts: dense, complex, death-obsessed poems by two very different writers, one by the worldly John Donne and two by the reclusive Emily Dickinson, sung by a choral group rather than soloists. And he makes it work. Unlike the newer Nonesuch recording, this reissued ECM Harmonium retains a sense of something fresh, beginning at a barely perceptible pianissimo, growing through the meditations of "Negative Love" and "Because I Could Not Stop for Death" to the ecstatic, erotically charged crescendo of "Wild Nights," and settling back into calm. Images of artificial forms of transport, including boats, run through the poems. Yet, considering the cover shot of barnacle-laden rocks on the seashore, one imagines Adams's music as portraying, instead, the shifting moods of the ocean itself. Indeed, it is the perfectly natural kind of elevation that Adams's oratorio celebrates, and that Edo de Waart and the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra remain expert at conveying. --Robert Burns Neveldine

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars John Adams and his First Monument March 3, 2006
Format:Audio CD
HARMONIUM has long been this listener's favorite large scale work by John Adams. As with others who encounter Adams' compositions for the first time the language was at first a bit confusing - until of course more exposure results in a near addiction for the serenity of mind his pulsating works create.

Now there are several recordings of HARMONIUM from which to choose, yet this initial performance with the San Francisco Symphony and Chorus under the baton of Edo de Waart remains the most pungent. Perhaps it is the then freshness of the score that suffuses both the orchestra and chorus with the enthusiasm this recording captures. But the beauty and mystery of Adams' setting of the John Donne and Emily Dickinson poetry is here magnificently rendered and is amazingly well enunciated. For example: in the opening of the second movement the words of Dickinson 'Because I could not stop for Death he kindly stopped for me' is utterly haunting, capturing all the mystical quality of Dickinson's poem with a choral sound that is difficult to duplicate.

Some would complain that the one work (32 minutes) hardly suffices to fill a CD, for this listener not having other works completing with the perfection of HARMONIUM is the perfect situation. Highly Recommended. Grady Harp, March 06
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding November 26, 2007
Format:Audio CD
Harmonium is a giant of a work for chorus and large orchestra. In it, John Adams accomplishes the impossible by creating a work that sounds remarkably simple if you allow your attention just to bounce across the surface. When you listen, the work becomes a deeply complex, multi-layered piece. In concert, there's no way you can miss the detail. You can't turn the volume down on forces like this! John Adams sets poems by John Donne and Emily Dickinson, the latter choice a harrowing vision of death juxtaposed with ecstasy. The setting of the words is quite masterly, confirming John Adams as one of the most accomplished as well as one of the most original voices in music. My only criticism of the cd is its length. There's a single work and the total length is less than 33 minutes.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars THIS IS THE ONE TO HAVE April 28, 2010
Format:Audio CD
I have sung this piece (as a bass with Minnesota Chorale), thus I am more than usually familiar with it, and utterly devoted to it as a revelatory and inspired piece of music. To dismiss it as "mere minimalism" is to miss the point completely, as the repetitions serve the powerfully musical and communicative purpose of getting one inside the texts and their ideas (which, in the case of Wild Nights, can be surprisingly earthy, especially for a Massachusetts spinster. "Still waters run deep"!). While I revere and adore Shaw and his legacy of alert and precise choralism, his reading does not have the transparency that DeWaart's has (DeWaart was also the conductor of the reading in which I participated), nor the perfect shaping of phrases that give extra life to the text. To anyone who would listen to this piece, I urge that you set aside enough uninterrupted time to give it your full attention, all the way through beginning to end. Do that, and I promise you an extraordinary experience ... especially if you are listening to DeWaart's original and wonderful San Francisco Symphony recording.
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12 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Stunning Modern Choral Music May 4, 2001
Format:Audio CD
Very few modern choral works are as good as this. John Adams sets to music one poem by John Donne and two by Emily Dickinson. Adams succeeds in adding a musical dimension to the three literary masterpieces. Buy this CD.
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