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Music of John Adams

Adams , Ensemble Modern Audio CD
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)

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Product Details

  • Audio CD (September 16, 1997)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: RCA
  • ASIN: B000003G73
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #294,794 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

1. Shaker Loops: Part I. Shaking and Trembling
2. Shaker Loops: Part II. Hymning Slews
3. Shaker Loops: Part III. Loops and Verses
4. Shaker Loops: Part IV. A Final Shaking
5. Phrygian Gates - Hermann Kretschmar
6. Chamber Sym: Mongrel Airs
7. Chamber Sym: Aria with Walking Bass
8. Chamber Sym: Roadrunner

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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Exceptional Performances December 9, 1998
I've been listening to Adams' music since 1981 or so, when I purchased an LP recording of his Shaker Loops coupled with Phrygian Gates, on 1750 Arch Records. Now come these new performances of those two works along with a more recent work, Chamber Symphony.
When Adams first appeared, he was hailed by many for reconciling minimalism with a more traditionally dramaturgical approach to composition. Little did we foresee that he would go to cartoons and Schoenberg for further inspiration, as he does in Chamber Symphony, but guess what? It works. The piece is quite brilliant and demands amazing virtuosity by its performers, which the Ensemble pulls off seemingly without effort. In fact, this performance is more assured and dramatic than the reading conducted by the composer himself, on Nonesuch.
As for the Shaker Loops comparisons, this record presents the chamber music version (this one is for string septet, as opposed to being for string orchestra). I have always preferred this, original version, and it beats out the competition, the recording that was originally on 1750 Arch records, but is now available on New Albion. The Phrygian Gates is wonderful, but I wouldn't be without the version by Gloria Cheng-Cochran, who gives the work a more sonorous cast.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great intro to John Adams and the Ensemble Modern October 13, 1998
In April of 1996 I saw the Ensemble Modern at Orchestra Hall in Chicago. The conductor was John Adams, and the program included his own works, as well as those of Edgar Varese, Frank Zappa, and Conlon Nancarrow. "Chamber Symphony," the three movement work that closes this CD, was one of the few things they played that night that I'd never heard, and I have to say their performance was an absolute knockout. I believe the Chamber Symphony is the finest work of Adams' career, and one of the best pieces of American music in years. The third movement in particular is incredibly exciting, and a great example of how entertaining a piece of atonal music can be. It owes as much to Carl Stalling (composer for the classic Looney Tunes cartoons) as it does to Schoenberg.
I know of one other available version of this work, performed by the London Sinfonietta and conducted by Adams himself. While that's a good CD, I'd recommend this one instead, partly because the Ensemble Modern is such a fantastic band, and also because I think the overall program here is more varied and interesting. Shaker Loops is a piece for string septet and Phrygian Gates is a piano sonata, and they are quite nice.
Incidently, if you enjoy this CD I recommend you check out not only other works by Adams but also other recordings by Ensemble Modern: "Yellow Shark," their all-Frank Zappa program, and "Studies," their CD of Conlon Nancarrow pieces.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
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Shaker Loops exist in several versions - it started its life as a quartet and was subsequently arranged for septet and for full orchestra. This recording gives us the septet version, and does so in an excellent performance by Ensemble Modern under Sian Edwards. The playing has all the virtues one might look for - the playing is full-bodied and powerful, yet clear and well-balanced. More importantly it sounds as urgently white-hot and energetic as one could hope for. In fact, the performance of the Ensemble Modern is almost feverish and sizzling with unbridled power (though passionately reflective in the middle movements), and makes as strong a case as any for this remarkable work.

Turning to Phrygian Gates, however, one's interest soon wanes. That is, I find no real fault with Hermann Kretzschmar's almost obsessive performance, but the work itself is not particularly pleasant or rewarding. It is long, however, and the grating harmonies, broken rhythmic patterns and energetic virtuoso character do not only fail to add up to a convincing whole, but are, frankly, rather ugly.

Still, on a well-filled disc like this you may afford to skip it and still have value for your money, and the Chamber symphony is in my view one of Adams's most remarkable works. The inspiration was, apparently, Schoenberg's first chamber symphony and Tom & Jerry-style frenzied cartoon music. It incorporates a wide variety of influences, from rock and jazz to twelve-tone elements. It is loquacious, chirping, meandering, frenetic, panicky and enormously fun. Again, the performances are well-neigh ideal; clear, well balanced and energetic. With a superb recording this is certainly a disc to consider rather seriously, despite the space taken up by the rather boring Phrygian Gates.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Buy It If Only For Shaker Loops April 26, 2012
This is an excellent intro to John Adams work, but more importantly contains by far the best performance of Shaker Loops, which here is played in its original septet version in terrific sound -- a modern chamber music masterpiece, working to perfection.
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