John Adams

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    AfterWords: John Adams, conductor / Eric Owens, bass-baritone

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    AfterWords: John Adams, conductor / Leila Josefowicz, violin


John Adams, composer, conductor, and creative thinker, occupies a unique position in the world of classical 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 25 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.

He began composing at age ten and heard his first orchestral pieces performed while still a teenager. After earning two degrees from Harvard, he moved to Northern California in 1971 and has since lived in the San Francisco Bay area. In 1985, Adams began a collaboration with the poet Alice Goodman and stage director Peter Sellars that resulted in two groundbreaking operas: Nixon in China (1984-87) and The Death of Klinghoffer (1990-91). Produced worldwide, these works are among the most performed operas of the last two decades.

Other recent Adams works include: Dharma at Big Sur (2003), for electric violin and orchestra, inspired by literary impressions of the Californian landscape by such writers as Jack Kerouac, Gary Snyder, and Henry Miller; the Doctor Atomic Symphony (2005), drawn from opera; and his most recent stage work, A Flowering Tree, written for the 250th anniversary of Mozart's birth and premiere in Vienna in 2006. Adams's works are among the very few written in our own time that have achieved repertory status, appearing regularly on programs by orchestras internationally. Nonesuch Records has released first recordings of all of his works, both symphonic and theatrical, since 1985.

John Adams is an active conductor, appearing with the world's greatest orchestras and with programs combining his own works with a wide variety of repertoire from all time periods. Adams's 2009-2010 season includes appearances as Artist in Residence at Lincoln Center's Mostly Mozart Festival, a residency with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, two Carnegie Hall appearances with the Orchestra of St. Luke's and Ensemble ACJW, an engagement with the London Sinfonietta, a two-week residency with the London Symphony Orchestra in Paris, and a two week residency with the National Symphony Orchestra at Washington DC's Kennedy Center.

In 2003, Lincoln Center presented a festival titled "John Adams: An American Master," the most extensive festival that the venue has ever devoted to a living composer. He is currently the Creative Chair for the Los Angeles Philharmonic and is the artistic mind behind that orchestra's forthcoming "West Coast/Left Coast" festival.

Hallelujah Junction, John Adams' autobiography, was named by the New York Times as one of the "most notable books of 2008." The John Adams Reader: Essential Writings on an American Composer, edited by Thomas May and published by Amadeus Press, is a 400-page summary of writings about Adams and his music, and the first in-depth anthology of texts dealing with more than 30 years of the composer's creative life.

Adams has received countless awards and honorary degrees and this season will receive the National Endowment for the Arts Opera Honors Award and an induction into the American Classical Music Hall of Fame.
John Adams


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