Adams: Harmonium - Rachmaninoff: The Bells
Atlanta Symphony Chorus, Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, Renée Fleming & Robert Shaw
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"Harmonium" is easily one of my favorite of all Adams' works: from the slowly mounting tidal wave of "Negative Love", to the otherworldly meditation that is "Because I Could Not Stop For Death", to the ecstatic, pulsing "Wild Nights". Yes, the performance is somewhat subpar, but it is an excellent buy nonetheless. "The Bells", on the other hand, is a choral setting of Edgar Allan Poe's poem of the same name. It's pure Rachmaninoff: big, bold, bodice-ripping. Well worth the money.
Harmonium is amazing, Shaw doesn't get it
Harmonium is one of my all time favorite pieces. I was shocked when I heard this recording. Adams creates a shimmering texture of polyrhythms, fluttering arpeggios, and gentle vocal syncopations. Shaw misinterprets this into a highly rhythmic mess, over-exaggerating the rhythms. The ensemble sounds too small for the work as well (scored for large orchestra and chorus). The newest recording by SF Symphony is the best, followed closely by the original SF Symphony recording, the latter not having the best production quality.