Tuesday, May 1, 2018

John Adams / Steve Reich - 1984 - Grand Pianola Music / Eight Lines / Vermont Counterpoint

John Adams / Steve Reich 
Grand Pianola Music / Eight Lines / Vermont Counterpoint

01. Grand Pianola Music 31:58
02. Vermont Counterpoint 8:44
03. Eight Lines 18:08

Ransom Wilson: Conductor & Flute

Recorded digitally:
Grand Pianola Music & Eight Lines in the Lehman College Center for the Performing Arts, 1984
Vermont Counterpoint in the Smothers Theatre, Pepperdine University, Malibu, California, 1982

Since minimalism is well-established as a major movement of the late twentieth century and widely practiced today, it may be surprising to find that John Adams' Grand Pianola (1982) ever provoked controversy. Yet its premiere riled the academic and avant-garde establishment, perhaps less for its explicit adoption of repetitive and additive patterns, which had been heard since the 1960s, but more for its extreme exploitation of pianistic clichés and relentless fixation on major scales and triads. Adams' music is deliberately and undeniably bombastic; but the shock value has decreased because Grand Pianola is no longer a novelty, and this recording's rather shallow reproduction captures little of the piece's rude, confrontational quality. Steve Reich's Vermont Counterpoint for piccolo, flutes, and tape (1982) and Eight Lines (1983, arranged from the 1979 Octet) are more successful works and easier to like for their textural consistency and richer elaborations of simple patterns; yet, though they resemble Reich's Music for 18 Musicians in many ways, neither rises to the beauty of that minimalist classic. Ransom Wilson's performances with the Solisti New York are enjoyable for their vigor and energy, but the mid-'80s digital sound quality is a little harsh and cold.