Adams: Road Movies; Hallelujah Junction; China Gates; American Berserk; Phrygian Gates

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COMPOSERS: Adams
LABELS: Nonesuch
WORKS: Road Movies; Hallelujah Junction; China Gates; American Berserk; Phrygian Gates
PERFORMER: Leila Josefowicz (violin), Nicolas Hodges, Rolf Hind, John Novacek (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 7559-79699-2
This CD spans nearly 25 years of Adams’s creative career, beginning with Phrygian Gates, the piece the composer refers to as his ‘Op. 1’, up to American Berserk written in 2001. Because the music is all in monochrome – just the hammered, driving sound of the piano, apart from the violin and piano duet of Road Movies – we get a peculiarly vivid sense of just how Adams’s idiom has changed over that time. The later pieces still have that minimalist drive, but they’re more wide-ranging in mood than the early ones. In the middle movement of Road Movies we hear a sleepy American pastoral, played with appropriate hot-summer sultriness by Leila Josefowicz and John Novacek. By contrast, Hallelujah Junction ends with a ‘full-tilt boogie-woogie’. It sounds at first as if pianist Nicolas Hodges is a mite too controlled here, but it becomes clear he’s merely holding something in reserve for the final mad dash. But to me the most impressive of the pieces is Phrygian Gates, with its slowly shifting patterns made up of a thousand pattering notes. Creating long-held stillness out of a myriad tiny dots is cruelly difficult, but pianist Rolf Hind does it with consummate control. Ivan Hewett

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