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John Adams: Fearful Symmetries; Wound Dresser
Sanford Sylvan, John [Composer] Adams, John Adams
John Adams: Fearful Symmetries; Wound Dresser
Genres: Dance & Electronic, Pop, Classical
 
  •  Track Listings (2) - Disc #1

This 1989 release became an unexpected surprise hit, primarily because of the extraordinary tone poem The Wound Dresser. Written to Walt Whitman's poem of the same name, it deals with Whitman's musings on the Civil War....  more »

      
   
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Amazon.com essential recording
This 1989 release became an unexpected surprise hit, primarily because of the extraordinary tone poem The Wound Dresser. Written to Walt Whitman's poem of the same name, it deals with Whitman's musings on the Civil War. There is hardly a hint of Adams's traditional (and usually blithe) minimalistic impulses here. This is the "dark" side of the composer that is to surface later in his opera The Death of Klinghoffer. Fearful Symmetries, the companion piece here, is more typical of Adams; it's a junkyard rattle of catchy rhythms and clever orchestral textures--a work made almost trivial by The Wound Dresser. --Paul Cook
 

CD Reviews

Adams Sets Whitman
Daniel G. Berk | West Bloomfield, Michigan | 01/17/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)

"John Adams' setting of Walt Whitman's poem, The Wound-Dresser, which Whitman derrived from his visits to wounded soldiers during the Civil War, is a masterful composition. The poem takes you right into the bleak hospital facilities, which you can almost smell and taste. Adams' setting of it infuses the music with the same emotion that Whitman conveys with the words. While this is somewhat different than Adams' usual fare, it is a significant work, most worthy of consideration."
Sublime
jeremy Price | worcester | 06/10/1999
(5 out of 5 stars)

"The Wound dresser is one of Adams most brooding pieces. The pace of the music conveys the tension of the ward, the pain of the sufferers. Adams is a mixture of intense Romanticism and ultra modern rhythmic canvasses. This disc is a fantastic starter for any one wishing to explore the many faces of this brilliant composer."
Early and Powerful Adams Compositions
Grady Harp | Los Angeles, CA United States | 04/09/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)

"As John Adams becomes an ever-increasing important presence in contemporary classical music it is a true pleasure to wander back through some of his early compositions at the moment when his genius was molding. This superb CD may have been recorded in 1988 but remains one of particular beauty in the growing pantheon of Adams recordings.

The CD opens with THE WOUND-DRESSER, Adams intensely poignant setting of Walt Whitman's poetry from the Civil War, a war during which the pacifist directed his participation to caring for the wounded soldiers both in the field and in the elementary, sadly inept field hospitals. Intoning the gorgeous poetry is baritone Sanford Sylvan who premiered the piece. Sylvan's beauty of voice is matched by his intelligence of phrasing and his completely understandable diction. Adams admits that this composition for baritone and orchestra was influenced by the death of his father from Alzheimer's Disease and the patient love and caring of that 'wound' by his mother. It is also from the time when AIDS was so very much in the public eye, another factor that makes Whitman's poetry very contemporary in dramatic poignancy. Yet whatever the influencing factors the piece is one of deeply felt compassion and is some of the most beautiful vocal music Adams has written to date.

FEARFUL SYMMETRIES is paired with WOUND-DRESSER for a good reason: Adams has always felt that his works 'alternate between two opposing polarities: along with every dark, introspective, 'serious' piece there must come the Trickster, the garish, ironic wild card...'. FEARFUL SYMMETRIES is all about jazz and puns and generous good humor. The already large orchestra is supplemented with saxophones, synthesizer and piano and rollicks in boogie-woogie riffs, syncopation, and all manner of dance hall rhythms. It is fun, it is crazy, it is an amazing compositional achievement. Adams conducts the Orchestra of St. Lukes in this fascinating and rewarding CD. Highly Recommended. Grady Harp, April 06

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