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Saturday, July 25, 2020

John Adams - Must the Devil Have All the Good Tunes? (Yuja Wang)


Composer: John Adams
  • (01) Must the Devil Have All the Good Tunes?
  • (04) China Gates

Yuja Wang, piano
Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra
Gustavo Dudamel, conductor

Date: 2020
Label: Deutsche Grammophon



This makes for an intriguing listen straight after DG’s American recording of Thomas Adès’s new Piano Concerto – not least given Adès’s was coupled with his own Totentanz and Adams’s is a Totentanz. But Adams’s title is surely his first bit of trickery: for all its diabolical qualities, this concerto in three movements makes little attempt to flaunt any tunes. There are more in Wozzeck.

That’s fine, because the piece is far too down-and-dirty anyway. It drops listeners straight into an urban street chase, a moto perpetuo powered from the midriff but underpinned by a funky slap bass whose bump-and-grind throws out all sorts of extraneous industrial sounds from the orchestra’s extremities. There are features in common with the composer’s previous works in the form but gone is the sheen and broad, universal world view of Century Rolls. This is music that doesn’t get too comfortable in its own skin – or even in its own time signature.

When the chase-down ends, the piano and orchestra appear to catch their breath, turning to stare at one another under a silvery moonlight; was this a playful, maybe even sexual chase all along? They are led straight into the gallant, socially distanced dance of the second movement, which eventually prompts an audible smile from the pianist before the disruptions of the finale – all rhythmic shape-shifting and momentum-building, up to and including the surprise coda, which lurches at a slower speed towards the conclusive time-out bell.

So not such a crazily inventive concerto as Adès’s nor as serious a musical commentary as some of Adams’s own works, many of which it even appears to tease with derring-do (those pile-driving minor thirds in the bass dredge up the emotional undertow of Nixon in China). Wang and Dudamel make for ideal rival racing drivers. If Wang’s China Gates might not have the horizon focus of some other versions, her power, rhythmic fortitude and sense of fun put a rocket under the concerto.

-- Andrew Mellor, Gramophone


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).


Yuja Wang (born February 10, 1987 in Beijing) is a Chinese classical pianist. She began studying piano at age six, and went on to study at the Central Conservatory of Music in Beijing and the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia with Gary Graffman. By the age of 21 she was already an internationally recognized concert pianist, giving recitals around the world. Wang has received attention as much for her eye-catching outfits and glamorous stage presence as for her piano playing. She has a recording contract with Deutsche Grammophon since 2009 and has published several albums on the label.


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  2. Se agradece la novedad 2020 , aunque Adams no me ha gustado nunca ...