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John Adams: Naive & Sentimental Music

3.9 out of 5 stars 18 customer reviews

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Audio CD, July 30, 2002
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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

John Adams ~ Naive and Sentimental Music - John Adams

Amazon.com

Dedicated to conductor (and fellow composer) Esa-Pekka Salonen, John Adams's Naïve and Sentimental Music is an awe-inspiring work of ambitious scope. It seeks to tackle the polarity between the naïve and the sentimental artist (the former oblivious to her place in nature, the latter preoccupied with location in the order of things) and uses wild juxtapositions to advance Adams's investigation. A wafting flute and harp open the three-part, 44-minute piece, but they are overcome by lurching brass, rumbling percussion, reedy woodwinds, and a palpable urgency. The second movement, "Mother of the Man," is, by vivid contrast, an almost ambient piece, floating on broad-stroked violins, bowed vibraphone, bell-struck percussion, and David Tannenbaum's textured guitar work. And then comes the final movement, "Chain to the Rhythm," the most recognizably minimalist excursion in what amounts to a symphony--in every way but its name. Cells of sound, oboes, cellos, vibraphones jut out as clarinets oscillate and twitter. There's a shimmer, a stammering vibrational effect, and a return to the first movement's growing urgency. Has the naïve artist discovered, anxiety-ridden, the insurmountable pressure of the sentimental artist? It's for the composer to know and the listener to find out. In any event, Naïve and Sentimental Music stands out singularly as Adams's most astonishing large-scale instrumental work, a piece that demands repeated listens and never disappoints. --Andrew Bartlett
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Product Details

  • Audio CD (July 30, 2002)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Nonesuch
  • ASIN: B00005UW1A
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #206,666 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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By Grady Harp HALL OF FAMETOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on August 26, 2002
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
John Adams has been gathering increasing audiences since his earliest works which were applauded more because of their originality than because of their innate musicality. Early works like 'Shaker Loops' led to the Opera 'Nixon in China' and while that opera drew large appreciative audiences because of the topic, it still was up to Adams to prove himself a durable, growing composer of lasting classical music. In this remarkable recording of NAIVE AND SENTIMENTAL MUSIC, commissioned by the orchestra and conductor who perform it here (Esa-Pekka Salonen and the LA Phil), we finally have a symphonic work that stands very tall as pure music. No need for a chorus or vocal soloists( as in the magnificent 'Harmonium' based on the poetry of Emily Dickenson, or 'El Nino', his oratorio for the Christmas season or 'The Wound Dresser' which is perhaps the most brilliant setting of Walt Whitman ever conceived): this is simply grand orchestral work. The opening measures draw us into the cradling effect of folk tunes, but that effect blossoms into a complex and colorful flight of fancy. The second movement is an elegy of quiet beauty and the last movement restates some of Adams earlier writing motifs but gradually binds these together into a electrifying explosion of blatantly romantic sound. Salonen and the LA Phil play this score as if to the music born - which in this case is reality! Excellent sonics and depth of range on the recording make the entire experience of getting to know this masterpiece a complete joy.
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Format: Audio CD
I guess I might be alone in my perception of John Adams' Naive and Sentimental music, but I shall say more about that later.
I heard this extraordinary music on the radio (only some 4 minutes of the first part's middle section) and I was instantly hooked. I searched the radio station's website the next day to discover what they were playing and I discovered an artist I never heard of before, but who is actually a very important figure in contemporary classical music as I learned soon. When I got the CD I discovered a whole new musical world, somewhere between tonal romanticism, minimalistic "repetitive" building layers of music and "atonal" (I don't belive there is such thing)contemporary composition.
Postmodern modernism could be the word.
So, back to the title of this review. The massive, "alienated" music, that reminds at times of "american" film-score classics, with strong dark tones, powerful outbursts of energy and sparkling, floating parts of music with "elvish" (since we're in the age of Lord of the Rings histeria - which I approve somehow)
undernotes. So, what is the artist trying to say? He moved me to some other state of counciousness and inspired visual worlds coherent with the design of the CD, which somehow transport me to some endless, dreamy "Americana" dream(land)scape similar to Jarmush's Dead Man movie setting and atmosphere.
Great work by Esa Pekka Salonen and LA Philly.
I wish Adams would venture even further into those "twilight" realms and maybe abandon the "layering principle" in favour of more rhytmically and sylistically diverse principles as exemplified by Stravinsky and other greats of symphonic invention. But I deeply admire his melodic invention and orchestration ideas. Go beyond, if you read this Mr.Adams.
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Format: Audio CD
This is the finest orchestral writing of John Adams' career. I have to agree with the newspaper critic who commented that while there are no real departures here from the familiar Adams voice (as heard in Harmonielehre, Nixon in China, the Violin Concerto, etc.), all of the expected tricks of melody, rhythm, harmony, and orchestration are delivered with an unprecedented mastery and assuredness, and on a grand new scale.
The performance is perfect as well. Salonen brings out the sharp, modern edges of the piece without sacrificing grace, subtlety, or tenderness of feeling. I know this must seem over-the-top, but I think I can recommend this recording to anyone interested in the symphony orchestra, without reservation.
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Format: MP3 Music Verified Purchase
John Adams completed Naïve and Sentimental Music in 1999, and this recording was made in October 1999. This is a symphony in all but name and it is a beautiful record. I love Adams’ music and next to Harmonielehre this is my favorite recording. The music is dedicated to Esa-Pekka Salonen who also conducts the Los Angeles Philharmonic.

There are similarities with Harmonielehre, which he wrote in 1985. Both are large-scale orchestral pieces in three movements. The music has multiple layers of sound and rhythm which reward frequent listening. Adams was once a minimalist, and sections of this music retain that style’s rhythmic drive. Adams claims that listening to Bruckner's Fourth Symphony, inspired him to write a modern version of Bruckner's approach to the symphonic form.

The title of the three-part piece borrows from a 1795 essay by Schiller, whose definitions of "naive" and "sentimental" art (the instinctive and the self-consciously aware) determine the two kinds of music in this score. Schiller wrote the “Ode to Joy” text used by Beethoven.

For Schiller the naive poet was intuitive, at one with nature, whereas the sentimental poet consciously inserted himself in society and in history. For Adams: Mozart, Schubert, Gershwin, Picasso, and Stevie Wonder were examples of Schiller’s “naïve.” Thomas Mann, James Joyce, Arnold Schoenberg, and, more recently Frank Zappa and Jeff Koons qualified as candidates for “sentimental” artists. Unfortunately this CD only lasts 44 minutes.
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