John Adams (b.1947) has long been considered among today’s leading American composers, particularly after the success of his operas Nixon in China (1987) and the controversial The Death of Klinghoffer (1991). This album of four orchestral works was the fruit of his 2021-22 Residency with the Tonhalle-Orchester Zürich directed by Paavo Järvi.
Having discovered musical minimalism in the 1970s, Adams’ works characteristic of that style include the fanfare-like Tromba Lontana (1985/86). Adams’ compositional style has since continuously evolved, incorporating musical influences including numerous Western classical as well as vernacular American styles: jazz, pop and rock.
In the 1990s Adams produced the brilliantly orchestrated, effervescent Slonimsky’s Earbox, in part drawing on early-period Stravinsky stylistic cues. Adams retroactively observed that the work points “toward a successful integration of the older minimalist techniques (repetitive motifs, steady background pulse and stable harmonic areas) and the more complex, more actively contrapuntal language of the post-Klinghoffer pieces.” Järvi demonstrates a sure command of the work’s web of stylistic allusions.
The rollicking Lollapalooza was also composed in 1995. Today the American word “lollapalooza” means something oversized and perhaps outlandish, features reflected in Adam’s exuberant music.
Adams considers his three-part tone poem My father Knew Charles Ives his “Proustian madeleine, although one with a Yankee flavor.” In this complex mature orchestral work,, Adams draws on his New England heritage, specifically reflecting the Connecticut composer Ives’ pervading musical influence.
This outstanding portrait of Adams’ orchestral oeuvre is a fine way to celebrate the composer’s 75th birthday.