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John Adams: The Dharma at Big Sur/My Father Knew Charles Ives

John Adams Audio CD
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)

Price: $23.43 & FREE Shipping on orders over $35. Details
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John Adams: The Dharma at Big Sur/My Father Knew Charles Ives + John Adams: Shaker Loops: Light Over Water + Adams: On the Transmigration of Souls
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Product Details

  • Audio CD (September 26, 2006)
  • SPARS Code: DDD
  • Number of Discs: 2
  • Label: Nonesuch
  • ASIN: B000HRMDT2
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #46,207 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

Disc: 1
1. The Dharma At Big Sur: II. Sri Moonshine
Disc: 2
1. My Father Knew Charles Ives: I. Concord
2. My Father Knew Charles Ives: II. The Lake
3. My Father Knew Charles Ives: III. The Mountain

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com

This is a splendid addition to the Adams discography, one that follows him from New England to California. Dharma at Big Sur is a concerto for electric violin. It begins by evoking the West's sun and easy living, but this is more than a musical piece of nature-painting. It rambles ambiently for a while before landing in an Indian raga, jazzy mode and ends with a type of heavenly good-naturedness. The electric violin is played by Tracy Silverman; a sixth string allows for the sonorous tones of the cello. The other work, presented on a second CD (so as to avoid culture shock?) is My Father knew Charles Ives, which, while apparently untrue, lets us know that Ives's New England sound and his wacky one-on-top-of-the-other methods will be found here, and, indeed, they are. It pays homage to some of Ives's music (the trumpet from his "The Unanswered Question" is clear here), but more than that, in its various sections ("The Lake;" "The Mountain") it evokes the nature of New England as picturesquely as Ives does, and parallels Adams's California in Dharma A pair of fascinating works, at times a bit thorny, but well worth it. --Robert Levine

Product Description


Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
34 of 36 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars 2 great works, but 2 discs? October 8, 2006
Format:Audio CD
I have to say I was getting worried that John Adams was becoming a has-been. El Nino's first half was much better than the second, I didn't particularly like Transmigration and I defy anyone to listen to his 2001 piano work American Berserk and tell me it's any good. But after this release, I stand humbly corrected -- he's still, in my opinion, America's, if not the world's, best living composer.

Dharma at Big Sur is scored for an electric violin and orchestra and uses a tuning system that's not well-tempered. What really makes this work special is the way the electric violinist plays soulfully and beautifully above the orchestra for almost the entire work in a sliding style I've never heard before in classical music. The first movement "A New Day" with its quiet and contemplative opening really feels like it's the creation of an entire universe. The climax of the second movement might be the most satisfying conclusion to any of Adams's works to date. Dharma is an absolute masterpiece.

My Father Knew Charles Ives is wonderful too, even if it's not as powerful or moving as Dharma. The work is both an homage to Ives and a reflection of Adams' life. Clearly, Adams had a great childhood. The first movement, Concord, is playful -- the clearest tribute to Ives, since it's sounds structurarlly similar to his Fourth of July. The chaos in Adams' Concord is a little more rigid than Ives', but it's still fun. The second movement, "The Lake", features a beautiful clarinet line that evokes the composer's father. The scurrying of the last movement, "The Mountain", seems needlessly frenetic at times, but the cathartic ending that results of it makes the voyage worth it.

My one bone to pick is with Nonesuch.
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27 of 30 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars New tricks from the old dog... November 20, 2006
Format:Audio CD
The music of John Adams has always been both distinctively personal and at the same time evocative of numerous other kinds of music. In that regard, it's Post-Modern in the best sense of the word: able to combine old things in new and provocative ways. If there were echos of 1940s Big Bands in Adams' "Fearful Symmetries," and a near-quote from Stravinsky's "Song of the Nightingale" in Adams' "Slonimsky's Earbox," then this new double CD is a continuation of that trend. The source for Adams' collage technique is clearly Charles Ives: what made "The Transmigration of Souls" into such a beautiful piece is the use of Ivesian techniques of collage to create a deeply American music of profound emotional impact. So "My Father Knew Charles Ives" is the latest manifestation. I would caution buyers who don't know Ives' "Three Places in New England" that you almost need to know that work before you hear Adams' piece to understand how fully Adams has modeled his music on Ives. The Dharma at Big Sur is a double homage as well. The first movement is inspired by Lou Harrison (who was my teacher) and the second movement by Terry Riley (who's a friend), so it was interesting to hear how Adams managed to be himself while evoking the work of two other composers. My only quibble with this beautiful sounding and looking disk is the wastefulness of issuing it on two CDs. Even if Nonesuch only makes you pay the price of a single CD, the two works together are barely an hour long, and it just seems a little over the top to put each work on its own CD. But hey, I guess if they were issuing MY music that way, it wouldn't seem overdone.
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10 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Gorgeous and Accomplished November 16, 2006
Format:Audio CD|Verified Purchase
More evidence that John Adams is one of the world's greatest living composers. Both works are full of the beauty and complexity that we have come to hope for from the composer of Nixon in China, Harmonielehre, and Century Rolls. The Ives piece is possibly the most brilliant imitation of another composer I have ever heard. Highly recommended to any serious music lover.
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9 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing. September 28, 2006
Format:Audio CD|Verified Purchase
this is for the fisrt disc 'Dharma at Big Sur' i have not even listened to the second disc as of yet.

I've been waiting since i heard a rebroadcast of the L.A.premiere (2003) shortly after the actual live premiere and have been impatiently awaiting this release. That's about 3 years and i felt every frickin second of it!

I was driving to work the night it was being rebroadcast and I was just overwhelmed, not by the idea of an electric violin because to me that's really not that 'out there' but yet i was overpowered with emotions of excitemnt and a sort of 'awakening.' My eyes actually widened as the performance continued until i reached my work and i just sat there in my car listening, not wanting to leave any amount of the piece unlistened to. I eventually started work that night being about 20 min late but i just didn't care.

Let me tell you i bugged my local classical radio station who actually did the rebroadcast if they could give me a copy or something. I Bugged nonesuch records. I tried having it played on request nights so that i could record it on my computer. Finally three years later i get an email from nonesuch and i shortly thereafter purchase this amazing piece of work.

Looking back at all my reactions and after reading the booklet inside the cd case, I find myself amazed that all of those feelings from first eye opening discoverey and overwhelming emotion then agonzing wait to 'achieve' (in my case get the music again) and giving in to the wait and to a final fierce almost angry capturing of what you longed to have again after a very long journey, were all part of what John Adams tried to capture.

who'd of thought buying a cd could be so gratifying? Definately worth the 20 bucks.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
1.0 out of 5 stars Music you don't have to listen to
I just don't get it. After avoiding John Adams for years, I decided I'd give him a listen. My first instinct was the right one. Read more
Published on January 14, 2012 by Personne
4.0 out of 5 stars New sound to enjoy
This John Adams CD is a great addition to my expanded 20th century collection. I am an avid listener of late 19th century and early 20th century and only occassionally move into... Read more
Published on July 21, 2010 by Denny
5.0 out of 5 stars "Dharma" a Masterpiece
"The Dharma at Big Sur," a concerto for electric violin and orchestra, features the kind of post-minimalist style typical of John Adams' works, but is one of his more harmonically... Read more
Published on January 13, 2009 by Robert S. Costic
4.0 out of 5 stars toward the oceanic
after listening to the dharma, inspired by jack kerouac's late writings, i had a look at my copy of adams' on the transmigration of souls for the compositional dates, the two... Read more
Published on August 15, 2007 by Case Quarter
3.0 out of 5 stars A mixed bag
I found this set a mixed bag. The first work - "The Dharma at Big Sur" - is a bit disappointing save for the massive ending, which is admittedly mind-blowing. Read more
Published on July 2, 2007 by Marcus K. Maroney
5.0 out of 5 stars beautiful
I'm a pianist and i find The Dharma at Big Sur to be one of the most beautiful pieces i've ever heard. The Ives piece is good, but i'm not too crazy about it.
Published on March 8, 2007 by Vasudevan Panicker
3.0 out of 5 stars Breakfast cereal vs. real accomplishment
I don't think John Adams should be canonized so early. The idiom he's chosen to write in, tonal minimalism, has now survived long enough to show up early critics who accused it of... Read more
Published on January 7, 2007 by Santa Fe Listener
4.0 out of 5 stars Adams gets his groove back...
My Father Knew... is little more than a skillful if somewhat bland symphonic Ives pastiche, but John Adams sort of gets his groove back in The Dharma At Big Sur -- a rhapsodic,... Read more
Published on December 20, 2006 by svf
5.0 out of 5 stars Difficult to not gush
I was fortunate enough to attend a live performance of "Dharma" at the Walt Disney Concert Hall in 2005, a little less than 2 years after it's first performance. Read more
Published on October 10, 2006 by Jacob Kenagy
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