John Adams’s Concerto for Violin

John Adams got minimalism from Steve Reich. His Shaker Loops, for example, is très minimal — energetic, accessible, repetitive. I like that stuff, and Loops is a great example of the form. Sometimes I think Steve Reich does minimalism better, but Adams wrote some great minimalist pieces and then went on to build something of his own on a minimalist foundation.

I fell in love with Adams when I first heard his Concerto for Violin, a piece with the pulse and excitement of minimalism but un-minimalist in its continuous spilling of melodies.

I remember the night I first heard it, on NPR on my car radio in rural southern Massachusetts where I’d retreated for a weekend alone to work on a novel. On the way to dinner along a local dark two-lane, the Concerto’s first movement washed through the car and I lost track of where I was.

I have a CD with Kent Nagano conducting The Orchestra of St. Luke’s (Nonesuch 79360-2). I haven’t listened to other recordings for comparison, but this rendition touched me, so it’s my reference version. The ensemble and engineering sound fine to me – I’m not a critic.

Here’s a You Tube version of all five movements of the Gidon Kremer/Kent Nagano rendition.

You can get this recording from Amazon as MP3, new CD, or used CD (right now the cheapest is five bucks), or from Arkiv Music for $16.49. If you don’t know it, I hope you get a chance to hear it. I enjoy gratitude.

BTW, John Adams has a very interesting blog called Hell Mouth


About charles thiesen

I live in Dorchester, MA with five housemates and a cat named Chat Cousteau. I write novels and ride a recumbent bike, among other things.
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