Notes and Editorial Reviews
The Violin Concerto, deemed “electrifying music” by the Village Voice, signifies Adams’s return to a large-scale sweeping lyricism, presenting Kremer in a virtuosic trek through a landscape of changing atmospheres. Alternating furious passagework, a dreamlike second movement of variations, and a finale of kinetic wonder that volleys between soloist and tutti, the work is poised to captivate Adams fans and new listeners alike.
R E V I E W:
John Adams's music has grown continually more interesting, partly because he never abandons old techniques when he finds new ones. Minimalism is the obvious example: Shaker Loops (1977/ 83) has one or two ideas added to basic minimalism; the violin concerto (1994) has many,
accumulated over the years, yet minimalism is still here, more subtle because it is embedded among a variety of musical methodologies. Among them now are Classicism and Romanticism; the violin concerto has many resonances with the great violin concertos of the last two centuries, not least in its overall form and shape. A large, complex opening movement (fifteen minutes) is followed by an introspective slow movement (11:30) and a propulsive, virtuoso finale (7:30). In the classic tradition, the solo line was written in constant consultation with violinist Jorja Fleezanis, who performed the premiere, and then revised and refined with the help of Gidon Kremer before this first recording. It was also commissioned and written as a dance piece and is already in the repertoire of the New York City Ballet.
The first movement is ever active without sounding the least bit busy. Violin and accompaniment go on together almost without break, following a lyrical line filled with repeating patterns and yet always moving forward; finally, about twelve minutes along, they come to rest for some slow, cadenza-like solo passages with occasional orchestral comment. The movement dies away quietly and slips immediately into the somber Chaconne which is the second movement, entitled “Body through which the dream flows.“ Without a note of preparation, the soloist tears into the main line of the finale, Toccare, a turbulent whirlwind of violin pyrotechnics and racing accompaniment.
For all its vitality and variety, there is not a harsh note in the concerto. It is both rhythmically exciting and warmly lyrical, it provides considerable virtuoso display, and it is immediately recognizable as a John Adams piece. I find it perhaps the strongest violin concerto since Dutilleux's masterful L'Arbe des songes, and its more readily appreciated qualities should help propel it into the standard repertoire. I predict that violinists will take to it and the concertgoing public will love it; this fine performance and recording should lead the way. That some details of the concerto's orchestration are not immediately apparent seems an intentional aura of mystery on the composer's part rather than any technical shortcoming.
After all this excitement, Shaker Loops comes as something of an anticlimax. Adams has developed into a great conductor of his own and others' music—spectacularly so in a recent concert by the Ensemble Modern at Alice Tully Hall in New York—and this performance of Shaker Loops is more tightly focused than the 1983 San Francisco Symphony recording under Edo de Waart, although it loses something of the sweetness of the piece. Again the Nonesuch recording is just fine.
-- James H. North, FANFARE [9/1996] Read less
Works on This Recording
Concerto for Violin by John Adams
Gidon Kremer (Violin)
London Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century
Written: 1993; USA
Date of Recording: 06/1994
Venue: EMI Abbey Road Studios, London
Length: 34 Minutes 3 Secs.
Shaker Loops by John Adams
Orchestra of St. Luke's
Period: 20th Century
Written: 1978; USA
Date of Recording: 11/1988
Venue: Manhattan Center Studios, New York City
Length: 24 Minutes 33 Secs.
Notes: Arranged: John Adams (1983)
Be the first to review this title