Adams: Harmonielehre; The Chairman Dances; Tromba Lontana; Short Ride in a Fast Machine

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Adams
LABELS: EMI
WORKS: Harmonielehre; The Chairman Dances; Tromba Lontana; Short Ride in a Fast Machine
PERFORMER: CBSO/Simon Rattle
CATALOGUE NO: CDC 5 55051 2 DDD
This is a real winner. Simon Rattle feels very close to the American composerJohn Adams, and how it shows. Adams is an unreconstructed tonal composer. This disc celebrates his sheer delight in the lushest of harmonies, the brightest of instrumental colours, the joy of rhythmic play and cross-play and, quite simply, the power that music has to express emotion. Adams’s music openly embraces the past, filtering Wagner, Mahler, Ravel, Sibelius, Stravinsky and first-generation minimalists – Riley, Reich and Glass – into his own rich mix. The massive Harmonielehre (1981) erupts with an energy of total certainty. Pounding chords in the first movement depict a dream that Adams had of a huge tanker exploding like a rocket out of San Francisco Bay, while the second movement, entitled ‘The Amfortas Wound’, with all its Wagnerian references, winds melancholically and sensuously up to an agonising orchestral scream of truly Mahlerian proportions. Adams’s uninhibited sense of joy and fun comes out in ‘The Chairman Dances’ from Nixon in China and Short Ride in a Fast Machine – reputedly the most popular orchestral piece by a living American composer. This disc is a showcase for the CBSO, amply rewarded by a thrilling recorded sound. Annette Morreau

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