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John Adams: Violin Concerto

Leila Josefowicz (violin); St Louis Symphony/David Robertson (Nonesuch)

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0


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John Adams Violin Concerto
Leila Josefowicz (violin); St Louis Symphony/David Robertson
Nonesuch 7559793510 32:27mins

John Adams’s radiant Violin Concerto is at once playful and refined, complex and accessible, rhapsodic and tightly structured. Composed in 1993, the Concerto diverges from the composer’s signature post-minimalist style – an approach Adams has described as ‘massed sonorities riding on great rippling waves of energy’. Instead, this concerto is all about melody, or what Adams coined as ‘hypermelody’, where, in his words, the violin ‘spins one long phrase after another without stop for nearly the full 35 minutes of the piece’.

The resultant work is expansively beautiful and this fine recording from Leila Josefowicz and the St Louis Symphony Orchestra captures both the energy and lyricism of Adam’s dazzling score. Josefowicz is a long-standing Adams aficionado, acutely responsive to the music’s line, pacing and sense of play. She soars in the twisting ascents of the opening movement, and finds both richness and bite in the second movement’s elegiac chaconne (with the marvellous title of ‘Body through which the dream flows’, after a line by poet Robert Haas). The Concerto’s finale (‘Toccare’) is a skittering perpetuum mobile, and both soloist and orchestra are here at their most electric. As Josefowicz has commented about the score: ‘Basically, it’s supposed to make you groove’. This recording accomplishes just that.

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Kate Wakeling