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John Adams - Portrait

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Customer Reviews

Pretty typical Adams, but worth a listen

I was compelled to buy this CD when I heard an interview with Angele Dubeau on a classical music station (maybe NPR?). She mentioned that normally she changes the batteries of her metronome once every two years (or something along the lines, can’t remember exactly), but as she was practicing “Road Movies,” she changed them twice that month. That caught my attention.

“Road Movies” is a groovy rhythmic adventure in typical Adams fashion. It isn’t exactly one of his most inspiring of works, but it doesn’t really have to be. One can marvel at the intelligent interplay between the violin and piano when observed closely. At the same time, it’s also a great piece to hear in a less-than-focused state (as one would expect from minimalist/post-minimalist works); it envelops you in something along the lines of a musical blanket. As for the quality of the performance, I have no complaints, though I haven’t compared this to other recordings (therefore it will probably suit you fine).

The second piece, “John’s Book of Alleged Dances,” is a slightly different beast. Take African music’s rhythmic elements (provided by recorded tape dubbed behind the string quartet) and squash them together with adventurous harmonies and sweeping melodic material. Once again, I find them to be entertaining and catchy, not emotionally challenging (they’re dances for crying out loud). I have to admit, “Rag the Bone” is especially awesome. Nice to hear a string quartet play with some less-than-classical flavor for a change.

“Shaker Loops” seems to be a piece that appears on a lot of John Adams CDs. I found this recording to be slightly less pristine than the London Symphony’s recording (from the violin concerto album). The mix seems to be slightly better in that one, in my opinion. This version works fine, however, for someone looking for an introduction to the piece. It’s more about the texture than the individual notes (think Seurat).

Overall, this is an album that seems to fit its given purpose pretty well. Not necessarily an intensely emotional experience, but a worthwhile journey. Pop it in during a long car ride, and you probably will be satisfied.

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John Adams - Portrait, Angèle Dubeau
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