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Maazel: Adams – On the Transmigration of Souls (APE)

Maazel: Adams - On the Transmigration of Souls (APE)
Maazel: Adams – On the Transmigration of Souls (APE)

Audio CD
Number of Discs: 1
Format: APE (image+cue)
Label: Nonesuch
Size: 112 MB
Recovery: +3%
Scan: yes

More than a Requiem or Kaddish: A Memoriam and Refuge

John Adams has created in ON THE TRANSMIGRATION OF SOULS a monumental piece that is a fitting tribute to those lost on 9/11 and to the cosmic significance of that horrible event. The world will never be the same after that terrifying assault, and while poets and writers struggle to find a path of solace for those of us who remain behind, it takes a creative genius such as Adams to find the means to bring some semblance of closure. He does this in a 25 minute work that combines the spoken word (pre-recorded) of the names of those lost, fragments of messages found at the sight from both before and after the conflagration, and uses a children’s chorus and a large adult chorus to pull these fragments of pain together. Encompassing the moments of silence and the nearly whispered repeated word ‘listen’ he uses his powers of orchestration and a profound palette of orchestral and vocal color. The end effect is riveting and even more otherworldly than the requiems sung across the nation after that day. This work comes from a man who understands his own humanity and coaxes us into embracing ours. The work is haunting, cleansing and sublimely beautiful. Loren Maazel and the New York Philharmonic give a deeply moving performance. Highly Recommended – for all of us who live.

Penance for the Klinghoffer opera?

Composers can catch flak for the texts they choose to set to music, and Adams logged his share of criticism for the opera “The Death of Klinghoffer.” (Depicting terrorists in any sympathetic light at all — even partially — was a highly charged undertaking that polarized people who never even heard the work.) In this newer work, Adams deals with a pivotal event involving several thousand Klinghoffers. Who can find fault with the texts set by Adams this time? The plaintive innocence and palpable sense of loss pervading the texts does something specific for the 9/11 victims: it personalizes them. When Adams personalized the hijackers aboard the Achille Lauro in “Klinghoffer,” he was rewarded with rebukes. When Adams personalized the victims of 9/11, he was rewarded with a well-deserved Pulitzer. International political morality makes for strange bedfellows, especially for composers who aren’t risk-averse.

What about the music? There are clear traces of many earlier Adams works, going back to Harmonium, but the harmonic reach (and evocative power) of the music has benefited from Adams’s more recent orchestral work (e.g., the quasi-symphony “Naive and Sentimental Music,” with a subtle tip of the hat to “El Dorado”). While many reviewers (and possibly Adams himself) see “El Nino” as the self-evident precursor to “Transmigration,” I fail to see a strong relationship (if only because “Nino” is episodic, while “Transmigration” is more of a monolithic arch). Adams slips between harmonies by having voices (human and orchestral) enter and leave the fabric in a manner reminiscent of Debussy’s “Pelleas et Melisande,” albeit couched in Adams’s distinctive idiom. The results are stunning, and most assuredly moving. Adams had the right palette to bring to the table to personalize the victims of 9/11 so very vividly. If you are an Adams fan (as I am), don’t buy this because you’re a completionist: buy it because it is outstanding. Kudos to Maazel for bringing this overwhelmingly powerful work to vivid life.

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