John Adams: Complete Piano Music
I've spent the last several years building what is, to be honest, an absurdly large CD collection. The classical section is particularly ridiculous: I can't give you an exact number, but it rivals some libraries. I've decided to give myself a goal: Listen to one classical CD a day until I've listened to all of them. In addition to listening to them, I'll post a little blurb here. I may skip a few here or there, but for the most part, this will be my classical CD collection. A lot of it will be hopelessly obscure and esoteric, but you may also find a few things that you'll want to listen to. And so it begins...
First, a confession: John Adams—the contemporary American composer, not the founding father—has never been my favorite, and in some ways, this CD highlights both the best and the worst things about Adams’s music. My issue is that his music often takes a while to get going, as if he’s fumbling around for an idea for 10 minutes, waiting for the piece to take shape. What this CD argues is that, once it gets into gear, the results can be stunning. In other words, there’s some very good music here, particularly the two-piano juggernaut that is “Hallelujah Junction.” This disc doesn’t get my highest recommendation, but it’s definitely worth a listen.
What is clear is that Ralph van Raat (and the same should be said for Maarten van Veen, who joins him on “Hallelujah Junction”) is an outstanding pianist. This music challenges both technique and physical endurance (“Phrygian Gates,” for example, is almost 25 minutes long), and van Raat is more than up to the challenge. An outstandingly clear recording rounds out a solid disc of generally satisfying music.
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Chris Massa is a musician based in Pittsburgh, PA. You are on his site right now.