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Monday, August 14, 2017

John Adams - Portrait (Angèle Dubeau & La Pietà)


Composer: John Adams
  • (01-03) Road Movies
  • (04-09) John’s Book of Alleged Dances
  • (10-13) Shaker Loops

Angèle Dubeau, violin & director
Louise Bessette, piano


Chamber music has never been John Adams' most natural outlet for expression; he tends to work on a large scale, in both duration and the performing forces his music calls for. Violinist Angèle Dubeau, who had already released "portrait" albums featuring the string works of Philip Glass and Arvo Pärt, therefore didn't have a large range of choices of Adams works to fill out this CD, but the three pieces included are all winners. Shaker Loops (1978) for string septet was Adams' first big success and it remains one of his most frequently performed works, probably at least in part because of the relatively modest size of ensemble it requires. It's a tightly wound piece based on loops of repeated material that demands intense concentration of its performers, and Adams admits that part of its appeal lies in the fact that it can create in listeners a sense of terror that at any moment things could fly disastrously out of control. La Pietà is such a disciplined and assured ensemble that its playing doesn't generate the kind of visceral anxiety that Adams describes, but it is nonetheless dazzling in its virtuosity. Dubeau and pianist Louise Bessette are featured in Road Movies from 1995. It's written with such fluidity, ingenuity, and idiomatic understanding of the instruments that it leaves the listener hoping Adams will continue to build his catalog of chamber music. Dubeau includes six of the ten movements of John's Book of Alleged Dances for string quartet (1994), played here by a double quartet. The "dances" give voice to Adams' zanier sensibilities and are delightfully inventive, colorful, and unpredictable.

Sweetness and strength characterize Dubeau's playing, as well as absolute technical security and thoughtful musicality, and the same attributes are true of the ensemble. It's a pleasure to hear these talented musicians devoted to the works of important contemporary composers. Analekta's sound is clean, well defined, and nicely ambient, with a strong sense of presence.

-- Stephen Eddins, AllMusic


John Adams (born February 15, 1947 in Worcester, Massachusetts) is an American composer of classical music and opera. He studied composition under Leon Kirchner, Roger Sessions, Earl Kim, and David Del Tredici. The music of John Adams is usually categorized as minimalist or post-minimalist, although in interview he has categorized himself as a 'post-style' composer. His works include Harmonielehre (1985), Short Ride in a Fast Machine (1986), On the Transmigration of Souls (2002) and Shaker Loops (1978). His operas include Nixon in China (1987), The Death of Klinghoffer (1991) and Doctor Atomic (2005).


Angèle Dubeau (born March 24, 1962 in Saint-Norbert, Quebec) is a Canadian violinist. Dubeau studied at the Conservatoire de musique du Québec à Montréal, with Dorothy DeLay at the Juilliard School of Music, and later went to Romania to work with Ştefan Gheorghiu. She has performed in concert halls in more than 25 countries, won several important international competitions, and has sold more than 300,000 records as a solo classical recording artist. Dubeau formed the all-female string ensemble "La Pietà" in 1997. She plays on the "Des Rosiers" Stradivarius violin from 1733.


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