Adams, Sumera

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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Adams,Sumera
WORKS: Fearful Symmetries; The Chairman Dances
PERFORMER: Norrlands Opera SO/Kristjan Järvi
CATALOGUE NO: 01912 (hybrid CD/SACD)
Though it’s become very popular with choreographers, Fearful Symmetries is not heard so frequently in the concert hall. A careering, highly insistent single movement written immediately after the completion of Adams’s first opera Nixon in China for an ensemble weighted, like the stage work, heavily in favour of wind instruments, it’s a sibling of his earlier Grand Pianola Music. However, it is less jokey and even more motoric; the pace hardly ever slackens, and makes The Chairman Dances, composed as prelude to work on Nixon, seem positively cosy.


These performances by the highly accomplished-sounding Norrlands Opera SO don’t have quite the unbuttoned physicality of the composer’s and Edo de Waart’s performances in Nonesuch’s Adams collection, though the unexpected coupling does gives this disc a distinctive flavour. The Estonian Lepo Sumera belonged to the same generation as Adams – he was born in 1950 and died in 2000 – and though coming out of an entirely different musical tradition his work also took on the legacy of minimalism from a highly personal angle. Sumera’s starting point was Arvo Pärt rather than Glass and Reich, and in the gently meshing lines of his Second Symphony, which ripple through all the sections of the orchestra, he uses repetitive techniques with great finesse and a real sense of cumulative power. Andrew Clements