John Adams

Biography

Born: February 15, 1947; Wooster, MA, USA  
Born in Massachusetts in 1947, composer John Adams was raised in Vermont and New Hampshire. Nothing in his classic New England training or early career suggested he would become affiliated with or brilliantly expand the once controversial musical language of minimalism. At the age of 10 he began studying clarinet, music theory, and composition. He attended Harvard University, financing composition studies with Leon Kirchner, David Del Tredici, Read more and Roger Sessions by appearing as a clarinetist with the Boston Symphony. He finished his master's degree at Harvard in 1971. Disillusioned with the East Coast academic scene, he took a job that year as head of the composition department at the San Francisco Conservatory, a position he held until 1981. In California he came under the influence of minimalist pioneer Steve Reich and sought out the music of the previous generation of experimentalists such as John Cage and Morton Feldman. Adams founded a series of New and Unusual Music concerts with the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra and from 1983 to 1985 served as its first composer-in-residence.

By that time, Adams was well on his way to becoming among the most influential and widely performed American composers since Copland. In early works, such as Phrygian Gates (1977) for piano and Common Tones in Simple Time (1979) for orchestra, Adams' musical language was most heavily influenced by the stripped-down harmonic palette and motoric pulse of minimalism. Even in these works, Adams' trademark rhythmic vigor and sense of large-scale architecture were already in evidence, and a lively humor rooted in juxtapositions of borrowed styles proved a consistent crowd-pleaser. The wild stylistic clashes of Grand Pianola Music (1982) provoked sharp critical disagreements in just the thing to benefit a young composer's career. Adams' affinity with the orchestra and his ability to fill a large canvas became fully apparent with Harmonielehre (1985), a work that fuses motoric repetitions, harmonic conciseness, and lush, textured emotionalism. Other Adams compositions of this period that continue to find places on symphony programs are the exhilarating overture Short Ride in a Fast Machine (1986) and the chugging, machine-like Fearful Symmetries (1988).

Adams really seized public attention with his stage works, however, and some consider his operas his most important contributions to musical literature. He tended to rip his subjects out of the headlines and of recent American history, with sometimes controversial results. The operas Nixon in China (1987) and The Death of Klinghoffer (1990-1991), the latter set amidst a terrorist attack, elicited both praise and controversy. I Was Looking at the Ceiling and Then I Saw the Sky (1995) followed a diverse group of Angelenos in the aftermath of the 1994 Northridge earthquake. His large-scale song The Wound-Dresser (1988), set to Walt Whitman's war poetry, demonstrated great emotional depth and development. Through the 1990s, Adams continued to draw on increasingly diverse sources of musical inspiration, from the electronics of Hoodoo Zephyr (1992) to cartoon music in the Chamber Symphony (1992) to the old-time American music of John's Book of Alleged Dances (1994). In 1995, Adams received music composition's most lucrative honor, the Grawemeyer Prize, for his Violin Concerto. His music was frequently recorded, generally on the Nonesuch label. Adams has also been active as a conductor, championing challenging twentieth century works by composers such as Conlon Nancarrow and Frank Zappa.

In the new millennium, Adams continued to compose music addressing major national and international events. El Niño, an oratorio on the subject of the birth of Jesus, marked the turn of the millennium itself. This multimedia work, originally presented by the San Francisco Symphony, featured a silent film and on-stage dancing in conjunction with the music, and the movement of the vocal soloists was also choreographed. Adams faced perhaps his most difficult commission in the wake of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001: On the Transmigration of Souls, for adult and children's choirs, orchestra, and taped sounds, was commissioned by the New York Philharmonic, premiered on September 19, 2002, and issued on the Nonesuch label the following year. With its readings of the names of survivors and of passages from the missing-persons posters that appeared around New York in the immediate wake of the attack, mixed with quotations from Charles Ives' The Unanswered Question, the work, in Adams' words, sought "to create what I would call a meditative space for the listener to bring one's emotions and memories, as if you would go into a cathedral." On the Transmigration of Souls earned Adams the Pulitzer Prize for music in 2003.

By the mid-2000s, Adams seemed almost an unofficial American composer laureate, and he continued to address major themes of American culture in his next major work, Doctor Atomic. An opera based on the life and career of J. Robert Oppenheimer, the lead designer of the U.S. atomic bomb, it spawned an instrumental Doctor Atomic Symphony. Another opera, A Flowering Tree, merged ideas from Mozart's The Magic Flute, including its themes of moral transcendence, with those from a southern Indian folktale; the work was commissioned for performance in an Austrian Mozart celebration, and Adams' fame was becoming increasingly international. Adams remained active and in high demand in the late 2000s. His string quartet Fellow Traveler, in honor of his chief theatrical collaborator, director Peter Sellars, was commissioned by the Kronos Quartet. Read less
John Adams: City Noir / Mcallister, Robertson, St. Louis Symphony
Release Date: 05/06/2014   Label: Nonesuch  
Catalog: 541356   Number of Discs: 1
On sale! $17.98
CD: $15.99
In Stock
On sale!   $17.98   CD:  $15.99 Add CD to Cart

Adams: El Niño / Nagano, Upshaw, White, Lieberson, Et Al
Release Date: 02/19/2002   Label: Arthaus Musik  
Catalog: 100221   Number of Discs: 1
On sale! $39.99
DVD: $37.99
In Stock
On sale!   $39.99   DVD:  $37.99 Add DVD to Cart

Adams: Doctor Atomic / Finley, Rivera, Renes
Release Date: 09/30/2008   Label: Opus Arte  
Catalog: 998   Number of Discs: 2
On sale! $39.99
DVD: $37.99
In Stock
On sale!   $39.99   DVD:  $37.99 Add DVD to Cart

From The New World - Ives, Adams, Stravinsky, Dvorak / Andris Nelsons
Release Date: 07/30/2013   Label: C Major  
Catalog: 713408   Number of Discs: 1
On sale! $24.99
DVD: $22.99
In Stock
On sale!   $24.99   DVD:  $22.99 Add DVD to Cart

Adams: El Nino / Nagano, Upshaw, Hunt Lieberson, White
Release Date: 10/29/2013   Label: Arthaus Musik  
Catalog: 101669   Number of Discs: 1
On sale! $29.99
DVD: $26.99
In Stock
On sale!   $29.99   DVD:  $26.99 Add DVD to Cart

Browse 1-25 of 121 Available Recordings
1 2 3 4 5
  • 1.
    Road Movies - Adams, Part, Lysight  / Duo Gemini
    Label: Pavane   Catalog: 7562 Release Date: 09/09/2014   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  John Adams,  Arvo Pärt,  Michel Lysight
    Performer:  Jean-Noël Remiche,  Jean-Frédéric Molard
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Duo Gemini
    CD: $17.99
    In Stock
    CD:  $17.99 Add CD to Cart

  • 2.
    Cognisance: The Piano Music Of Glass, Adams, Part, Cage & Helisck
    Label: Helisek Publishing   Catalog: 239 Release Date: 07/08/2014   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  John Adams,  Philip Glass,  Arvo Pärt,  John Cage  ... 
    Performer:  Timothy A. Helisek
    CD: $13.99
    In Stock
    CD:  $13.99 Add CD to Cart

  • 3.
    Mendelssohn, Adams: Violin Concertos / Jarvi, Hoopes,  Leipzig Radio Symphony Orchestra
    Label: Naive   Catalog: 5368 Release Date: 05/27/2014   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Felix Mendelssohn,  John Adams
    Performer:  Chad Hoopes
    Conductor:  Kristjan Järvi
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Middle German Radio Symphony Orchestra
    Recommendation
    CD: $17.99
    In Stock
    MP3 Available
    CD:  $17.99 Add CD to Cart

    MP3:  $9.99 Add MP3 to Cart

  • 4.
    John Adams: City Noir / Mcallister, Robertson, St. Louis Symphony
    Label: Nonesuch   Catalog: 541356 Release Date: 05/06/2014   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  John Adams
    Performer:  Timothy McAllister
    Conductor:  David Robertson
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  St. Louis Symphony Orchestra
    On sale! $17.98
    CD: $15.99
    In Stock
    On sale!   $17.98   CD:  $15.99 Add CD to Cart

  • 5.
    Road 66 / Shani Diluka, Natalie Dessay
    Label: Mirare   Catalog: 237 Release Date: 04/08/2014   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  John Adams,  Keith Jarrett,  Percy Aldridge Grainger,  Samuel Barber  ... 
    Performer:  Shani Diluka,  Natalie Dessay
    On sale! $26.98
    CD: $24.99
    In Stock
    On sale!   $26.98   CD:  $24.99 Add CD to Cart

  • 6.
    Adams: Gospel According to the Other Mary / Dudamel
    Label: Deutsche Grammophon   Catalog: 002003402 Release Date: 03/11/2014   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  John Adams
    Performer:  Russell Thomas,  Tamara Mumford,  Kelley O'Connor,  Daniel Bubeck  ... 
    Conductor:  Gustavo Dudamel
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Los Angeles Master Chorale,  Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra
    Recommendation
    CD: $37.99
    In Stock
    MP3 Available
    CD:  $37.99 Add CD to Cart

    MP3:  $22.99 Add MP3 to Cart

  • 7.
    American Grace - Piano Music From Steven Mackey & John Adams / Orli Shaham
    Label: Canary Classics   Catalog: 11 Release Date: 02/25/2014   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  John Adams,  Steven Mackey
    Performer:  Orli Shaham,  Jon Kimura Parker
    Conductor:  David Robertson
    CD: $17.99
    In Stock
    MP3 Available
    CD:  $17.99 Add CD to Cart

    MP3:  $9.99 Add MP3 to Cart

  • 8.
    Composing America / Lark Quartet
    Label: Bridge   Catalog: 9423 Release Date: 02/11/2014   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  John Adams,  William Bolcom,  Aaron Copland,  Paul Moravec
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Lark String Quartet
    On sale! $19.98
    CD: $16.99
    In Stock
    On sale!   $19.98   CD:  $16.99 Add CD to Cart

  • 9.
    La Folie Americaine! - Dvorak, Gershwin, Bernstein, Barber, Copland, Glass, Adams
    Label: Erato   Catalog: 2564634485 Release Date: 02/11/2014   Number of Discs: 3
    Composer:  George Gershwin,  Samuel Barber,  Philip Glass,  Aaron Copland  ... 
    Performer:  André Previn,  Hélène Grimaud,  Richard Rodney Bennett,  Dame Kiri Te Kanawa  ... 
    Conductor:  André Previn,  David Zinman,  John McGlinn,  Simon Rattle  ... 
    CD: $17.99
    In Stock
    CD:  $17.99 Add CD to Cart

  • 10.
    John Adams: Harmonielehre; Doctor Atomic Symphony; Short Ride In A Fast Machine
    Label: Chandos   Catalog: 5129 Release Date: 11/19/2013   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  John Adams
    Conductor:  Peter Oundjian
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Royal Scottish National Orchestra
    Recommendation
    SuperAudio CD: $19.99
    In Stock
    MP3 Available
    SuperAudio CD:  $19.99 Add to Cart

    MP3:  $9.99 Add MP3 to Cart

  • 11.
    Road Movies: Music For Violin & Piano By Corigliano, Adams, Chaplin, Novacek And Newton
    Label: Meridian Records   Catalog: 84619 Release Date: 11/12/2013   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  John Corigliano,  John Adams,  Charles Chaplin,  John Novacek  ... 
    Performer:  Albert Tiu,  Ning Kam
    Recommendation
    On sale! $18.98
    CD: $15.99
    In Stock
    On sale!   $18.98   CD:  $15.99 Add CD to Cart

  • 12.
    Adams: El Nino / Nagano, Upshaw, Hunt Lieberson, White
    Label: Arthaus Musik   Catalog: 101669 Release Date: 10/29/2013   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  John Adams
    Performer:  Dawn Upshaw,  Willard White,  Lorraine Hunt Lieberson
    Conductor:  Kent Nagano
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin
    On sale! $29.99
    DVD: $26.99
    In Stock
    On sale!   $29.99   DVD:  $26.99 Add DVD to Cart

  • 13.
    Yarlung Records: The First Seven Years
    Label: Yarlung Records   Catalog: 96821 Release Date: 08/27/2013   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Gaspar Sanz,  Jason Barabba,  Gustav Mahler,  Witold Lutoslawski  ... 
    Performer:  Sasha Cooke,  David Fung,  Elinor Frey,  Badal Roy  ... 
    Conductor:  Yehuda Gilad
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Ciaramella,  Janaki String Trio,  Smoke & Mirrors
    CD: $19.99
    In Stock
    CD:  $19.99 Add CD to Cart

  • 14.
    From The New World - Ives, Adams, Stravinsky, Dvorak / Andris Nelsons
    Label: C Major   Catalog: 713408 Release Date: 07/30/2013   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Charles Ives,  John Adams,  Igor Stravinsky,  Antonín Dvorák
    Conductor:  Andris Nelsons
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra
    On sale! $24.99
    DVD: $22.99
    In Stock
    On sale!   $24.99   DVD:  $22.99 Add DVD to Cart

  • 15.
    From The New World - Ives, Adams, Stravinsky, Dvorak / Andris Nelsons [blu-ray]
    Label: C Major   Catalog: 713504 Release Date: 07/30/2013   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Charles Ives,  John Adams,  Igor Stravinsky,  Antonín Dvorák
    Conductor:  Andris Nelsons
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra
    Recommendation
    Blu-ray Video: $39.99
    In Stock
    Blu-ray Video:  $39.99 Add to Cart

  • 16.
    Fellow Traveler - The Complete String Quartet Works Of John Adams / Attacca Quartet
    Label: Azica   Catalog: 71280 Release Date: 03/26/2013   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  John Adams
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Attacca Quartet
    Recommendation
    CD: $17.99
    In Stock
    CD:  $17.99 Add CD to Cart

  • 17.
    Minimalists - Adams, Glass, Reich, Heath / Warren-green
    Label: Virgin Classics   Catalog: 352992 Release Date: 02/12/2013   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  John Adams,  Philip Glass,  Steve Reich,  Dave Heath
    Performer:  John Harle,  Chris Lawrence,  Simon Haram
    Conductor:  Christopher Warren-Green
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Chamber Orchestra
    CD: $7.99
    Low Stock
    CD:  $7.99 Add CD to Cart

  • 18.
    Essential 20th Century Classics
    Label: Emi Classics   Catalog: 234372 Release Date: 01/22/2013   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Sergei Prokofiev,  Joaquin Rodrigo,  Aram Khachaturian,  Sir Edward Elgar  ... 
    Performer:  Jacqueline Du Pré,  Cécile Ousset,  Peter Donohoe,  Stomu Yamashta  ... 
    Conductor:  André Previn,  Simon Rattle,  Yuri Temirkanov,  Sir John Barbirolli  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Ensemble Modern
    CD: $12.99
    In Stock
    MP3 Available
    CD:  $12.99 Add CD to Cart

    MP3:  $9.99 Add MP3 to Cart

  • 19.
    Adams: Nixon In China / John Adams, Metropolitan Opera [DVD & Blu-ray]
    Label: Nonesuch   Catalog: 532291 Release Date: 11/19/2012   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  John Adams
    Performer:  Russell Braun,  Robert Brubaker,  Janis Kelly,  James Maddalena  ... 
    Conductor:  John Adams
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Metropolitan Opera Chorus,  Metropolitan Opera Orchestra
    On sale! $29.98
    Blu-ray Video: $26.99
    In Stock
    On sale!   $29.98   Blu-ray Video:  $26.99 Add to Cart

  • 20.
    If You Love For Beauty
    Label: Yarlung Records   Catalog: 14148 Release Date: 09/25/2012   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  John Adams,  George Frideric Handel,  Ernest Chausson,  Gustav Mahler
    Performer:  Sasha Cooke
    Conductor:  Yehuda Gilad
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Colburn Orchestra
    CD: $19.99
    In Stock
    MP3 Available
    CD:  $19.99 Add CD to Cart

    MP3:  $9.99 Add MP3 to Cart

  • 21.
    Images / John Milbauer
    Label: Fleur De Son   Catalog: 58006 Release Date: 09/25/2012   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Claude Debussy,  George Crumb,  John Adams
    Performer:  John Milbauer
    CD: $18.99
    In Stock
    MP3 Available
    CD:  $18.99 Add CD to Cart

    MP3:  $9.99 Add MP3 to Cart

  • 22.
    Imaginary Landscapes - Sounds of America [20-CD Set]
    Label: Emi Classics   Catalog: 44290 Release Date: 07/03/2012   Number of Discs: 20
    Composer:  John Philip Sousa,  Scott Joplin,  Ferde Grofé,  George Gershwin  ... 
    Performer:  Joshua Rifkin,  Ralph Grierson,  Richard Rodney Bennett,  Barry Tuckwell  ... 
    Conductor:  Timothy Foley,  George Sponhaltz,  Felix Slatkin,  Ferde Grofé  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Great American Main Street Band,  Southland Stingers,  Hollywood Bowl Symphony Orchestra  ... 
    Recommendation
    CD: $58.99
    Low Stock
    CD:  $58.99 Add CD to Cart

  • 23.
    Essential American Classics
    Label: Emi Classics   Catalog: 27851 Release Date: 06/05/2012   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Louis M. Gottschalk,  Stephen Foster,  Edward MacDowell,  Scott Joplin  ... 
    Performer:  Leonard Pennario,  Salli Terri,  Molly Mason,  Thomas Hampson  ... 
    Conductor:  Simon Rattle,  Leonard Slatkin,  Neil Richardson,  John McGlinn  ... 
    CD: $12.99
    Low Stock
    MP3 Available
    CD:  $12.99 Add CD to Cart

    MP3:  $7.99 Add MP3 to Cart

  • 24.
    Adams: Harmonielehre, Short Ride In A Fast Machine / Tilson Thomas, San Francisco Symphony
    Label: San Francisco Symphony   Catalog: 53 Release Date: 03/13/2012   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  John Adams
    Conductor:  Michael Tilson Thomas
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  San Francisco Symphony Orchestra
    Recommendation
    On sale! $27.98
    SuperAudio CD: $24.99
    In Stock
    On sale!   $27.98   SuperAudio CD:  $24.99 Add to Cart

  • 25.
    Threads / Molly Morkoski
    Label: Albany Records   Catalog: 1342 Release Date: 03/13/2012   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Ludwig van Beethoven,  Charles Wuorinen,  Frédéric Chopin,  Louis Andriessen  ... 
    Performer:  Molly Morkoski
    Recommendation
    On sale! $19.98
    CD: $16.99
    In Stock
    On sale!   $19.98   CD:  $16.99 Add CD to Cart

1 2 3 4 5