'Adams’ music is both lush and austere, grand and precise. To make an analogy to two poets whose work he has set to music, it's Walt Whitman on the one hand and Emily Dickinson on the other.' New York Times
‘Son of Chamber Symphony was an exuberant nod to its 1992 predecessor, all cartoon energy and virtuosic colour.’ Independent on Sunday
‘John Adams' ambitious and alluring new String Quartet's rhythmic punch, sunlit color and sensual melodic-harmonic contours suggested new American music with a French accent.’ Detroit Free Press
John Adams' Son of Chamber Symphony (2007) is performed by the International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE), led by the composer, and Adams' String Quartet (2008) is performed by the St. Lawrence String Quartet, the ensemble for which the piece was written. This is the first recording of both works.
"As you might imagine, Son of Chamber Symphony is closely related to Chamber Symphony," Adams recently explained in an interview for the London Sinfonietta. "The two are very similar in instrumentation: 15 players-a large chamber group, or a very small orchestra-which means everybody gets to be a soloist in one way or another. It gave me an opportunity to do the kind of challenging virtuoso writing that I would never attempt with a large orchestra. The new chamber symphony also has the same buoyant quality [as the original]." The piece was co-commissioned by the San Francisco Ballet for a new work by choreographer Mark Morris, entitled Joyride, which premiered in 2008.
String Quartet is Adams' second full-sized work for that combination of instruments. His first, 1994's John's Book of Alleged Dances (Nonesuch, 1998), is a set of 11 short pieces written for Kronos Quartet. Hearing the St. Lawrence String Quartet perform that work inspired Adams to compose String Quartet for them, which led to its world premiere at The Juilliard School in 2009. Since then, the group has performed the work more than 50 times throughout North America, Europe, and New Zealand, including a critically acclaimed performance at Carnegie Hall's Zankel Hall in March 2011. The Philadelphia Inquirer said of one of those concerts, "The piece is a knockout. Thanks to the St. Lawrence telepathic sense of ensemble, so was the performance."
With a flexible roster of 33 leading instrumentalists performing in forces ranging from solos to large ensembles, the International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE) functions as performer, presenter, and educator, advancing the music of our time and pursuing groundbreaking strategies for audience engagement. Since its founding in 2001, ICE has premiered more than 500 compositions, the bulk of them by emerging composers, in venues ranging from New York's Lincoln Center and Chicago's Museum of Contemporary Art to galleries, bars, clubs, and schools around the world.
Established in 1989, the St. Lawrence String Quartet (SLSQ) has developed a reputation as a world-class chamber ensemble. The quartet performs more than 120 concerts annually worldwide and calls Stanford University, where the group is ensemble-in-residence, home. The SLSQ is committed to the great, established quartet literature and also champions new works by composers like John Adams, Osvaldo Golijov, Eziquiel Vinao, and Jonathan Berger. The quartet comprises founding members Lesley Robertson (viola) and Geoff Nuttall (violin); cellist Christopher Costanza, who joined the group in 2003; and violinist Scott St. John, who joined in 2006.
John Adams is one of America's most admired and respected composers. A musician of enormous range and technical command, he has produced works, both operatic and symphonic, that stand out among all contemporary classical music for the depth of their expression, the brilliance of their sound, and the profoundly humanist nature of their themes. His music has played a decisive role in turning the tide of musical aesthetics away from the theoretical principles of European modernism toward a more expansive and expressive language, so characteristic of his New World surroundings.
Son of Chamber Symphony I
Son of Chamber Symphony II
Son of Chamber Symphony III
String Quartet I
String Quartet II
“This feast of colours and textures for 16 players may bear a strong family resemblance to its knockabout predecessor, Chamber Symphony (1992), but Adams's tastes have broadened...The 2008 String Quartet completes the disc, with its dedicatees the St Lawrence String Quartet faultlessly navigating coruscating tragedy and agitated brilliance”
“Son of Chamber Symphony is by John Adams the cold professional, who knows which emotional buttons to press and how to orchestrate for effect; the String Quartet finds him emotionally engaged with his art again.”
2nd July 2011
“In Son of Chamber Symphony (2007), two scherzo-like outer movements frame a centrepiece that manages to be both calm and upbeat...Much more successful is String Quartet (2008), a powerful homage to classical form in Adams’ most sensitive vein. Excellent performances.”
“Such challenging music demands both poise and precision from the performers - which it receives in abundance on this recording...[the String Quartet] is Adams at his most unforgiving and uncompromising. The St. Lawrence String Quartet, for whom the work was written, provide a masterful performance”
16th June 2011
“That familial relationship seems strongest in the first movement, where the tangy sonorities, jostling instrumental lines and sudden changes of direction recall the similarly muscular opening of its predecessor...Both works are given exactly the kind of high-octane performances that Adams's instrumental music demands.”
17th June 2011
“Rhythms keep jabbing, stomping, and jiggling, held in place with extreme precision, yet still with room for some jazz swing. With a less accomplished composer, the work could seem mere twiddling and diddling...But Adams keeps his new material continually refreshed, and further strengthens his hand with a thoughtful slow movement, launched with a fine lamenting theme that locks on to your heart.”
Click on any of the works listed above for alternative recordings.