John Adams: Slonimsky’s Earbox, My Father Knew Charles Ives, Tromba lontana, Lolapalooza
Paavo Järvi / Tonhalle Orchestra Zurich (Alpha)
(scroll down for English review)
John Adams was composer-in-residence for Zurich Tonhalle Orchestra in the 21/22 season and this CD was made under his supervision. To me the best label for this CD is “Your second John Adams album”, as the first would be taken up by his most famous pieces Short Ride in a Fast Machine, The Chairman Dances and the mammoth Harmonielehre.
Premiered by Kent Nagano, Slonimsky’s Earbox (track 1) probably occupies a special position for the composer as he labels his personal website with “earbox” in the address. But I’m in a loss for words to describe it as there are so many moods and tempi. Lucikly I can guarantee there’s not one sluggish moment.
Premiered by Michael Tilson Thomas, My Father Knew Charles Ives (tracks 2-4) is the longest piece here. For the record, Adams’ father didn’t really know Ives but this work is obviously a tribute to the American pioneer. The first movement blends Adams’ minimalism with Ives’ polystylism, most prominently in the marching band melodies awkward interruptions. Lake, the second movement, is probably the best work on water and birds after Beethoven’s Pastoral. Mountain, the third movement, left me in awe. You might appreciate it as a sonic spectacular but I could feel a philosophical pursuit in the vein of Transcendentalism. The final two works are short ones. Tromba lontana (track 5) is the neglected brother of the much-played Short Ride. Two antiphonal trumpets play with or against each other. Premiered by Rattle, Lolapalooza (track 6) completes this album with a swingy bang, it’s practically the interplay of riffs but delivered under Adams’ wonderful orchestrations.