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  • The John Adams Earbox: A 10-CD Retrospective
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The John Adams Earbox: A 10-CD Retrospective Box set

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Audio CD, Box set, October 19, 1999
$339.99 $84.99

Editorial Reviews

Having earned his composing stripes after the 1960s, John Adams had the pioneering work of Steve Reich, Philip Glass, and Terry Riley close at hand as he ventured into his trade. And, while minimalism's historical continuum helps place Adams, he used Reich, Glass, and Riley (among others) only as a starting point. And here's proof: a 10-CD retrospective of nearly all Adams's recorded compositions on Nonesuch Records, the label that also issued Steve Reich 1965-1995 and Kronos Quartet: 25 Years. Adams's Harmonium, a choral work of startling energy and effervescence, appears here in a new recording, as do distillations of both The Death of Klinghoffer and Nixon in China, two path-clearing operas. Over the span of a career covered by Earbox, Adams has returned minimalism to traditional instrumental ensembles as well as to projects that at once advanced a political commentary and took that commentary back to orchestral audiences. And so, in far less time than his predecessors, Adams created works that now play like standard repertoire pieces: The Wound Dresser and Shaker Loops and the Violin Concerto--all of them are here. What these works demonstrate is a fierce creativity on the one hand and perhaps a hunger for commercial advances on the other. Adams may at times be a bustling free thinker, but he sounds ever conscious of what audiences are listening to. As for the works themselves, they remain every bit as daunting as when written.

Some may object to particular selections. I Was Looking at the Ceiling and Then I Saw the Sky, for example, hardly ranks with Adams's best work. But this box isn't a mere best-of; it's an almost-all-of. At times terrifically American--especially in the news-aware operas and their narrative pragmatism--Adams well deserves a major box set, and its coverage is appropriate to his varied, stylistically diverse output. As with any large-scale retrospective, Earbox--which fairly bristles with Adams's new composition, Slonimsky's Earbox--has spots where fans might balk at the quality of the composer's writing. But it's got a fantastic accompanying booklet along with its many hours of inarguably modern and thoroughly listener-friendly music. --Andrew Bartlett

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Product Details

  • Performer: Sanford Sylvan, Kronos Quartet, Teresa Shaw, John Alley, Shelagh Sutherland, et al.
  • Orchestra: San Francisco Symphony Orchestra, Orchestra of St. Luke's, London Sinfonietta, Lyon National Opera Orchestra, Hallé, et al.
  • Conductor: John Adams, Edo de Waart, Kent Nagano
  • Composer: John [Composer] Adams, Charles Ives
  • Audio CD (October 19, 1999)
  • Number of Discs: 10
  • Format: Box set
  • Note on Boxed Sets: During shipping, discs in boxed sets occasionally become dislodged without damage. Please examine and play these discs. If you are not completely satisfied, we'll refund or replace your purchase.
  • Label: Nonesuch
  • ASIN: B00001SID1
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #241,964 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Customer Reviews

Adams's violin concerto is one of his better works.
D. B. Rathbun
I'm really sorry that anyone could fail to enjoy it, and really recommend others to listen for themselves.
Mr. F. L. Dunkin Wedd
Adams has really taken his music in directions far away from all of those composers.
G. Faville

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

28 of 31 people found the following review helpful By G. Faville on May 2, 2000
Format: Audio CD
If you're checking out this site you are probably already familiar with Adam's music. I was first introduced to Adams with A Short Ride in a Fast Machine, which I had the good fortune to perform in an orchestra. I then bought Fearful Symmetries (primarily because of the cool title) and loved that as well, being a fan already of minimalism through Glass, Reich, and Riley. Adams has really taken his music in directions far away from all of those composers. The violin concerto on this disc is not altogether solid, in my opinion. The first movement does little for me. Adams lays down a beautiful blanket of sound with the orchestra and writes what seems like improvisatory thoughts in the violin part over the top of it. It takes repeated listens to start hearing and recognizing the motifs and appreciating the overarching structure to the movement. The movement just doesn't speak to me. The second movement, on the other hand, is an absolutely beautiful chaconne that to me carries a lot of melancholy and nostalgia on the violin line, but you will hear what you want to. The price of the CD is worth it for this movement alone. The Toccare is a real showpiece, perpetual motion style driving rhythm, that must be a real finger buster. Shaker Loops is more of the real minimalist piece here, and it was composed about 10 to 15 years earlier than the concerto. I love listening to it. It works the best as background music, in my opinion, unless you are going to see it live. Tune in once in a while and you'll hear some really clever harmonic turns underneath all the texture. One of the things that I love about minimalistic music is also how you can get lost in thought listening to the patterns, then suddenly realize everything is completely different in the music and you wonder how it got that way without you noticing it.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 8, 2001
Format: Audio CD
I think if John Adams were to read some of the earlier reviews that referred to him as a minimalist and to these pieces as minimalist works, he would hunt down the reviewers at all costs. These pieces do show some influence of the minimalist period, but both pieces are such richly vested with luscious melodies and a strong sense of change that we'd be insane to label them as minimalist.
Kremer, always a consummate musician, provides us with yet another gorgeous recording. Kent Nagano, the conductor, works well with kremer here - the LSO's attack on this piece perfectly parallels Kremer's slicing approach. The piece will swell to points where you'd think the speakers would burst from the intensity, and then drop back down to a quiet, almost sinister set of pizzicati lines.
It's quite a rush. This piece is definitely in the running for one of the great violin concerti of the 20th century
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18 of 21 people found the following review helpful By "ragamala78" on October 15, 2000
Format: Audio CD
These two works by American composer John Adams, "Violin Concerto" (1993) and "Shaker Loops" (1977, revised 1983) are two of the finest minimalist works I've ever heard. Adams is one of the few minimalist composers that has evolved into something else. He hasn't limited himself strictly to that genre.
The earlier of these two works "Shaker Loops" is the more traditionally minimalist of the two. Even then, it is still breaking away from strict minimalism. The pulsating repetiveness is still there, but there are more lyrical passages that release and provided a much needed rest from the intensity of the hard repetition. Scored for string orchestra, its often hard to imagine that only strings are making these sounds.
The "Violin Concerto" concerto is easily the more mature of the two works. At this point in his career, Adams is definately "post-minimalist" (all these labels mean virtually nothing!) New music advocate Gidon Kremer is the perfect choice as soloist for this piercing, energetic and exciting work. It is a piece often brimming with energy. It is also important that such a major contemporary composer is going back and returning to a very popular and traditional form considering that most modern composers do whatever they see fit by either inventing new forms or abandoning form entirely. The violin almost never stops completely overpowering the orchestra's understated but excellent part. The third movement in particular is quite unlike most violin concertos. Very spiky and fun.
A splendid pair of works by one of today's most famour composers. The violin concerto, especially is worth checking out.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful By A. Hogan VINE VOICE on November 26, 2002
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
John adams is one of the most popular living composers of"modern" classical music[I believe the cutoff point, though arbitrary is usually WWII}.I came to him late, through my husband. Modersn classical music , I said? What the hell is that?My husband kept playing bits and pieces of adams for me, and more and more i found myself amazed. and swayed. His operas have been groundbreaking{Nixon in China} controversial{Death Of klinghoffer},his compostions sublimely beautiful{shaker Loops or harmonium].HIS STATURE IS WORTHY THEN OF SUCH A MONUMENTAL CAREER SPANNING BOX SET.This 10 disc set[great value, again from NONESUCH}encompasses Adams' entire career,and though there are some misses here{I was looking at the ceiling and then i saw the sky doesnt quite fit},it is still magnificent. the Highlights are ,{for me} the Wound Dresser, Chamber symphony,Violin Concerto, of course, Shaker Loops and Harmonuim are wonderful. The true jewels here are Nixon in China,the Chairman dances and the Death of Klinghoffer,which is simply a masterpiece. The set comes with a wonderful book, which contains essay's by Robert Hurwitz {An Uncommon Man}renaud Machart[John adams as seen from europe} and Essays before an earbox by Adams himself.A Chronology and dicography are included. A wonderful study of an American original,worth the investment, Highly highly recommended
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