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JOHN ADAMS  

(b 1947 )

Composer, conductor, and creative thinker—John Adams occupies a unique position in the world of American music. His works, both operatic and symphonic, stand out among contemporary classical compositions for their depth of expression, brilliance of sound, and the profoundly humanist nature of their themes. Over the past 30 years, Adams’s music has played a decisive role in turning the tide of contemporary musical aesthetics away from academic modernism and toward a more expansive, expressive language, entirely characteristic of his New World surroundings.

Born and raised in New England, Adams learned the clarinet from his father and played in marching bands and community orchestras during his formative years. He began composing at age 10 and heard his first orchestral pieces performed while still a teenager. The intellectual and artistic traditions of New England, including his studies at Harvard University and attendance at Boston Symphony Orchestra concerts, helped shape him as an artist and thinker. After earning two degrees from Harvard, he moved to Northern California in 1971 and has since lived in the San Francisco Bay area.

Adams taught at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music for 10 years before becoming composer-in-residence of the San Francisco Symphony (1982-85), and creator of the orchestra’s highly successful and controversial “New and Unusual Music” series. Many of Adams’s landmark orchestral works were written for and premiered by the San Francisco Symphony, including Harmonium (1981), Grand Pianola Music (1982), Harmonielehre (1985) and Absolute Jest (2012).

In 1985, Adams began a collaboration with stage director Peter Sellars that has resulted in three decades of groundbreaking operas and oratorios: Nixon in China (1987), The Death of Klinghoffer (1991), both to libretti by Alice Goodman, El Niño (2000), Doctor Atomic (2005), A Flowering Tree (2006), The Gospel According to the Other Mary (2012) and Girls of the Golden West (2017). Of his first opera, The New Yorker magazine said, “Not since Porgy and Bess has an American opera won such universal acclaim as Nixon in China.”

Adams has received numerous GRAMMY awards, many of them for his over 30 releases on Nonesuch Records. In 2017 the Berliner Philharmoniker released The John Adams Edition, a multi-CD and DVD compilation of his music in performances conducted by Rattle, Dudamel, Petrenko, Gilbert and Adams himself.

A new recording of the complete opera Doctor Atomic, with Adams conducting the BBC Symphony and featuring baritone Gerald Finley and soprano Julia Bullock was released in July, timed to the new Sellars production at the Santa Fe Opera.

Must the Devil Have All the Good Tunes? a new concerto for pianist Yuja Wang, was premiered in March of 2019 with the Los Angeles Philharmonic under Gustavo Dudamel.

Both Harvard and Yale universities have conferred honorary doctorates on Adams, as have Northwestern University, the Juilliard School and Cambridge University in England. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger of California honoured him with the Governor’s Award for his distinguished service to the arts in his adopted home state. His Violin Concerto won the 1993 Grawemeyer Award, and On the Transmigration of Souls, commissioned by the New York Philharmonic to commemorate the first anniversary of 9/11, received the 2003 Pulitzer Prize in Music.

Adams’ work for two-pianos, Hallelujah Junction, serves at the opening music in Lucca Guadagnino’s Academy Award-nominated film “Call Me By Your Name.”

John Adams is a much sought-after conductor, appearing with the world’s major orchestras, including the London Symphony Orchestra, the Concertgebouw Orchestra, the Berliner Philharmoniker, the Chicago Symphony and the Metroplitan Opera. His programming combines his own works with a wide variety of repertoire ranging from Beethoven, Mozart and Wagner to Ives, Stravinsky, Carter, Zappa, and Ellington.

In the most recent seasons Adams has returned to the Cleveland Orchestra, the Orchestra of Santa Cecilia in Rome, the Dallas Symphony and the Oslo Philharmonic as well as led the Juilliard Orchestra and has presented the world premiere of Philip Glass’s Symphony No. 12 with the Los Angeles Philharmonic.

Since 2009 Adams has held the position of Creative Chair with the Los Angeles Philharmonic where he has been instrumental in the success of that orchestra’s highly creative Green Umbrella new music series.

Through his conducting and commissioning of new works, Adams has become a significant mentor of the younger generation of American composers. The Pacific Harmony Foundation, created with his wife, the photographer Deborah O’Grady, supports commissions and performances of new works and musical education initiatives throughout the country. Adams’ educational activities reach from the local (the John Adams Young Composers program in his hometown of Berkeley, California) to the national and international (the Juilliard School, the Royal Academy of Music, the New World Symphony and the Berliner Phiharmoniker Akadamie).

John Adams is also a highly esteemed and provocative writer. He is a frequent contributor to the New York Times Book Review and has written for The New Yorker and The London Times. Hallelujah Junction, Adams’s much-praised volume of memoirs and commentary on American musical life, won the Northern California Book Award for Creative Nonfiction and was named one of the “most notable books of the year” by The New York Times. The official John Adams website is www.earbox.com.

View by Role: Classical Composer | Arranger
Role: Classical Composer 
Album Title
Catalogue No  Work Category 
A TO Z OF CLASSICAL MUSIC (The) (3rd Expanded Edition, 2009) Naxos Educational
8.558212-13
Orchestral
A TO Z OF OPERA (The) (2nd expanded edition) Naxos Educational
8.558216-17
Opera
ADAMS, J.: Chamber Symphony / Son of Chamber Symphony (Alarm Will Sound, Pierson) Cantaloupe Music
CA-21128
Chamber Music
ADAMS, J.: Doctor Atomic (DNO, 2007) (Blu-ray, NTSC) Opus Arte
OABD7020D
Opera DVD
ADAMS, J.: Doctor Atomic (DNO, 2007) (NTSC) Opus Arte
OA0998D
Opera DVD
ADAMS, J.: I was Looking at the Ceiling and Then I Saw the Sky (Mühlpointner, Trotman, Neisser, Holst Sinfonietta, Simon) Naxos
8.669003-04
Opera
ADAMS, J.: Nixon in China (Orth, Kanyova, Hammons, Heller, Opera Colorado Chorus, Colorado Symphony, Alsop) Naxos
8.669022-24
Opera
ADAMS, J.: Piano Music (Complete) Naxos
8.559285
Instrumental
ADAMS, J.: Violin Concerto / CORIGLIANO: Chaconne from The Red Violin Naxos
8.559302
Concerto
ADAMS: Shaker Loops / Wound Dresser / Short Ride in a Fast Machine Naxos
8.559031
Vocal, Orchestral
BACH, J.S.: Brandenburg Concertos Nos. 3 and 6 / ADAMS: Shaker Loops / REICH: Triple Quartet Oehms Classics
OC363
Orchestral
CEDILLE ON THE MOVE (Sampler) Cedille
CDR8002
Chamber Music
Chamber Music (Contemporary) - DONG, Kui / UNG, Chinary / BODY, J. / FRANK, G.L. / NA, Hyo-Shin (Ring of Fire) (Del Sol String Quartet) Other Minds
OM1016-2
Chamber Music
CONTEMPORARY AMERICAN OPERAS (4-DVD Box Set) (PAL, NTSC) Opus Arte
OA1179BD
Opera DVD
Discover Music of the Twentieth Century Naxos Educational
8.558168-69
Orchestral
DISCOVER OPERA Naxos Educational
8.558196-97
Opera
Min Forste Klassiske Musik (My First Classical Music Album) Naxos
8.578232
Orchestral
My First Classical Albums (9-CD Box Set) Naxos
8.509003
Orchestral
My First Classical Music Album Naxos
8.578203
Orchestral
Orchestral Concert - IVES, C. / ADAMS, J. / STRAVINSKY, I. / DVORAK, A. (From the New World) (Nelsons) (Blu-ray, HD) C Major
713504
Classical Concert
Orchestral Concert - IVES, C. / ADAMS, J. / STRAVINSKY, I. / DVORAK, A. (From the New World) (Nelsons) (NTSC) C Major
713408
Classical Concert
Piano Duet Recital: Schumann, Nina / Magalhães, Luis - BARBER, S. / BOLCOM, W. / RZEWSKI, F. / ADAMS, J. (American Intersections) TwoPianists
TP1039220
Instrumental
Piano Recital: Martin, Joanne Pearce - CHOPIN, F. / MOZART, W.A. / MENDELSSOHN, Felix / ADAMS, J. / CARLSON, M. / HOFMAN, J. (Barefoot) Yarlung Records
YAR79580
Instrumental
SONIC REBELLION - Alternative Classical Collection Naxos
8.570760
Orchestral
STORY OF AMERICAN CLASSICAL MUSIC (THE) Naxos Educational
8.558164-65
Orchestral
UNITED STATES AIR FORCE BAND OF THE WEST: Century of Progress (A) Altissimo
75442261582
Wind Ensemble/Band Music
UNITED STATES AIR FORCE HERITAGE OF AMERICA BAND: American Patrol (An) Altissimo
75442271072
Wind Ensemble/Band Music
UNITED STATES NAVY BAND: Coast to Coast Altissimo
75442261052
Wind Ensemble/Band Music
Violin Recital: Koh, Jennifer - HIGDON, J. / HARRISON, L. / ADAMS, J. / RUGGLES, C. (String Poetic) Cedille
CDR90000-103
Chamber Music
Vocal Recital: Cooke, Sasha - ADAMS, J. / CHAUSSON, E. / HANDEL, G.F. / MAHLER, G. (If You Love for Beauty) Yarlung Records
YAR14148
Opera
Yarlung Records - The First Seven Years Yarlung Records
YAR96821
Opera
Role: Arranger 
Album Title  Catalogue No  Work Category 




 
 
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