Since September 2010, this blog has recorded the journey of this middle-aged man as I attempt to listen to all the music in my CD collection. CDs revisited in their entirety from start to finish - no skipping tracks, no shuffle. CDs only - no vinyl, no tapes, no downloads. And just as CD technology (and the album format itself) becomes obsolete. I'm no music critic, just a music junkie with too much time on my hands.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

John Adams - Chamber Symphony/Grand Pianola Music (1994)


John Adams conducting the London Sinfonietta.

After discovering his music in the late '80s, I became a huge Adams fan, preferring his brand of minimalism to that of Glass or Reich. However, I find myself increasingly drawn to his earlier compositions (of the late '70s through the '80s) rather than his more recent stuff. As a result, I haven't listened to this CD much.

Tracks:
Chamber Symphony (1992): The composer states that the influences for this work were Schoenberg's Chamber Symphony and cartoon music from the 1950s (Carl Stalling, I'm guessing). The opening movement, titled Mongrel Airs, has some good moments, but is a little too frantic for my tastes. The second movement, Aria with Walking Bass is at its best when it is just trombone and bass, without the shrill woodwinds. The final movement, Roadrunner, is by far the best. Effectively incorporating a synth, the movement is rhythmically aggressive without being in your face. Overall, a nice work, but not one of my favorites.

Grand Pianola Music (1982): In my opinion, the stronger work. Delicate and shimmering. My only beef is the use of 3 wordless female singers (called "Sirens") and the fact that the woodwinds are all scored too high. Flutes in a consistent upper-register just aren't a pretty sound and distract from the harmonic beauty of the work. Love the piano parts. The final movement proves that minimalist music can be based on the tonic-dominant relationship instead of progressions based on thirds. Sounds like it would be a fun piece to play.

Personal Memory Associated with this CD: None, but it occurs to me that I've never heard any of Adams' orchestral or chamber work performed live. I should remedy that soon.

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