John Adams's Rib

Getting to the bones of this Summer's Hottest Composer

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Monday, July 11, 2011

This week on The New Canon, soprano Jessica Rivera and flutist Eric Lamb enter the ring to talk about the Summer of John Adams. Join the conversation in the window below or via Twitter with the hashtag #q2new. Want to get a head start? Leave your questions in the comments below and we'll address them at the top of the chat.

Writing for The New York Times last month, classical critic Steve Smith asked "Has the time come at last for The Death of Klinghoffer…?" I'd take it one step further: Even with his extensive popularity over the last few decades, has the time now come for John Adams? Earlier this year, his breakthrough first opera, Nixon in China received its long overdue Metropolitan Opera premiere with Adams making his debut with the company as a conductor. This summer has seen productions of Klinghoffer in Missouri and A Flowering Tree in Ohio. And this week, the Cleveland Orchestra takes to Avery Fisher as part of the Lincoln Center Festival, pitting orchestral works of Adams against those of Bruckner.

On hand to talk further about this are soprano Jessica Rivera, who has appeared in several Adams works including A Flowering Tree in Cincinnati last month (and its world premiere in Austria) and flutist Eric Lamb, who appears with the International Contemporary Ensemble on the newest Adams disc for Nonesuch, which features his Son of Chamber Symphony. We'll hear that, plus excerpts from Tree and more as we get to the nitty gritty of this founding father of 20th- and 21st-century music.

Hosted by:

Olivia Giovetti

Comments [4]

Richard from brooklyn

Set up:

Adams always produces interesting names even if he is working within an old form. Recently I tried to momentarily disregard the names and box his catalog in to the forms and do a tally:

5 symphonies:(Harmonium,Harmonielehre,Naive&Sentimental Music, Doctor Atomic Symphony,City Noir)

4 operas (Nixon,Klinghoffer,Doctor Atomic,Flowering Tree)

5 Concertos: (Violin Concerto, Dharma at Big Sur, Century Rolls, Infinite Jest, Gnarly Buttons)

2 chamber symphonies
1 oratorio (el Nino)
1 Broadway show
1 string quartet

Numerous other pieces for orchestra (Guide to Strange Places, Lollapalooza), fanfares (Common Tones), overtures (Short Ride), and chamber music.

My question would be....

What is your impression of your catalog now from the perspective of a "body of work"?

and in what way would you like to develop that body of work? More chamber music? An attempt at a real Hollywood film score? More operas?

Jul. 11 2011 02:30 PM
Frank Feldman

He can't write for voice to save his life.

Jul. 11 2011 10:13 AM
Bernie from UWS

I agree, it's a silly question. He's been one of the most prominent American composers for over a decade now. I will say that his "importance" resides more with critics and arts administrators than with the general public. The Met's Nixon performances had mediocre sales and I'd be surprised if the average NY Phil subscriber could name even one of his orchestral pieces.

Jul. 11 2011 08:23 AM

I think the time has already come for Adams? He's been hugely prominent for like 10+ years, one of the most famous living composers. I think the "Is it time for Klinghoffer" question has more to do with the difficult political content that wasn't well-received at its premiere. The Met Nixon was really just a belated confirmation of things everyone has known for a while...If anything now its time for other Adamses---the son Sam and the other John (Luther).

Jul. 07 2011 06:16 PM

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