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John Adams: Shaker Loops CD

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Product details

  • Performer: Nathan Gunn
  • Orchestra: Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra
  • Conductor: Marin Alsop
  • Composer: John Adams
  • Audio CD (4 Oct. 2004)
  • SPARS Code: DDD
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Format: CD
  • Label: Naxos
  • ASIN: B00030B9F2
  • Other Editions: MP3 Download
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 73,908 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

Listen to Samples and Buy MP3s

Songs from this album are available to purchase as MP3s. Click on "Buy MP3" or view the MP3 Album.

Song TitleArtist Time Price
  1. Short Ride in a Fast MachineMarin Alsop 4:14£0.79  Buy MP3 
  2. The Wound-DresserNathan Gunn19:11Album Only
  3. Berceuse elegiaque, Op. 42 (arr. J. Adams): Berceuse elegiaque (arr. J. Adams)Marin Alsop 9:30Album Only
  4. Shaker Loops (version for string orchestra): Shaking and TremblingMarin Alsop 8:27Album Only
  5. Shaker Loops (version for string orchestra): Hymning SlewsMarin Alsop 5:31£0.79  Buy MP3 
  6. Shaker Loops (version for string orchestra): Loops and VersesMarin Alsop 7:13£0.79  Buy MP3 
  7. Shaker Loops (version for string orchestra): A Final ShakingMarin Alsop 4:09£0.79  Buy MP3 

Product Description

Adams : Short Ride in a Fast Machine - Busoni : Berceuse elegiaque (arr. J. Adams) / Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, dir. Marin Alsop

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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Sentinel TOP 500 REVIEWER on 13 Feb. 2011
Format: Audio CD
If you want to dip your toe in the waters of John Adams style of minimalism, this is a very good and inexpensive place to start. Marin Alsop and the Bournemouth Symphony deliver splendid versions of four Adams pieces. 'Brief Ride in a Fast Machine' kicks off with its foot to the floor, and an insistent pulse, taking you on an exhilarating ride. 'The Wound-Dresser', settings of Whitman's poetry to music, is a wonderfully atmospheric, brooding piece, while the 'Berceuse' has all the gentle poignancy you might wish. However, the longest work here is 'Shaker Loops' at over twenty-five minutes, and is a thoroughly engaging and addictive performance with its spiralling themes, metronomic pulse and insistent repetition, yet full of colour despite these apparent restrictions.
I would acknowledge my fellow reviewer who trumpets the Warren-Green/London Chamber version of 'Shaker Loops'Minimalist /London Chamber Orchestra · Warren-Green as the finest available, as I also have this, but this Naxos version, though less magically ethereal, has a greater drive which gives it a different appeal. As I've also argued about some Arvo Part recordings on Naxos, these are two different interpretations: to reduce it to a crude 'what's best' does this impressive music a disservice.
Marin Alsop and the Bournemouth orchestra really engage with this music, so that it comes across as both vibrant and fresh, and wholly committed. The recording is also superb, one of Naxos best. This cd is also a strong Gramophone and Penguin Guide recommendation, as well as 'editor's choice' for Gramophone. A great introduction to John Adams.
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23 of 29 people found the following review helpful By hutchies on 25 Mar. 2005
Format: Audio CD
There is nothing wrong with this recording: the focal work, 'Shaker Loops', is a seminal masterpiece of the twentieth-century, and the others are well-chosen too (especially the lesser-known 'The Wound Dresser', a moving and introspective setting of Whitman); the orchestra is technically very accomplished; and, as always with Naxos, the price is right. The problem is that a work like 'Shaker Loops' really deserves the best recording you can buy; and this rendition, put next to the best out there (I'm thinking of the LCO and Christopher Warren-Green on the 'Minimalist' CD, currently unavailable from Virgin Classics, but definitely worth tracking down), this version is just too bland and glassy.

'Shaker Loops' is a real attempt to move away from the polished, motoric anaemia which was beginning to characterise Minimalism (are you listening, Mr Glass?) to something far grittier and more emotional, and unless it's performed with that in mind it really loses a lot. Get this if you want 'The Wound Dresser', but if it's 'Shaker Loops' you're after, don't scrimp : go the whole hog and get a recording you'll treasure. I bought this one first, but I never listen to it now - I don't need to.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4 reviews
22 of 22 people found the following review helpful
Terrific performances, with a few quibbles 13 Jan. 2005
By Jeff Abell - Published on
Format: Audio CD
As an owner of the John Adams Earbox, and a bunch of other stuff as well, I guess I qualify as an official junkie when it comes to his work. So only the low sticker price convinced me to sample this new CD. But it was money well spent. Marin Alsop's conducting on this disk is energetic and committed, and really gets to the heart of the pieces. The burning-rubber tempo on "Short Ride in a Fast Machine" is especially great. There are some balance issues, as noted by other reviewers, which is the only reason to give this 4 stars instead of 5. I really bought this for Nathan Gunn's performance of "The Wound-dresser," which is one of Adams most heartfelt and emotionally profound works. The version with Sanford Sylvan, conducted by the composer, is a truly great recording, and sets a very high standard indeed. Gunn's voice is more of a true baritone, a darker, more "masculine" sound, and it's very appealing in this score. Overall, his performance is really excellent, and though he's miked a little too closely (or mixed a little too prominently, it's hard to tell), he interprets the piece with distinction. There's a couple of spots (hate to quibble, Nathan, but...) where he does some vocal things that annoy me. At the line, "Soon to be filled with clotted rags and blood," he does enunciates the bl-sound before rising up to the pitch, turning it into "buh-lud" and the effect is too melodramatic. (Compare to Sylvan's performance, and you'll see what I mean.) But that's picking nit on what is overall a fine performance from a really outstanding singer. I also think Adams own version of this score has an emotional arc that slightly eludes Alsop. It's an episodic piece, and though Alsop gets all the moments right, it doesn't seem to have the cumulative shape of the composer's own version. But that's hardly surprising, considering what a good conductor Adams is; he's hard to surpass in his own work. As I said, I'm happy to add these new readings to my ridiculously comprehensive collection of Adams recordings. For people new to his work, it's a cheap thrill, with the emphasis on the thrill.
23 of 25 people found the following review helpful
Exciting performances ruined in the mixing studio 1 Nov. 2004
By Marcus K. Maroney - Published on
Format: Audio CD
There's no doubt about it - the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra play brilliantly for the majority of the time in each of these pieces, and Alsop invests the music with great energy, due mostly to faster than usual tempos. Unfortunately, these tempo choices and some recording balance problems overshadow what otherwise would be a great addition to the John Adams discography.

While not usually something I advocate, a look at the timings indicates just what to expect in Short Ride in a Fast Machine. Alsop's clocks in at 4:05, SFSO/de Waart, the Netherland Wind Ensemble, the Cincinnati College-Conservatory Wind Symphony/Corporon and CBSO/Simon Rattle all take 4:20 or longer. This seemingly antiseptic comparison is actually pretty important in a piece with unchanging tempo, and Alsop's very fast direction produces some pretty hectic sounding areas in the piece. It is exciting when one hears the first three clicks of the woodblock at such a speed (amounting to about 20 clicks per minute faster on a metronome), and the opening trumpet rhythms are wonderfully articulated, but there are later areas where detail is lost and it just sounds mushy (not something that would be the aim of this work, I think). There are also several balance problems that pretty much ruin the recording for me. The wood block(s) are simply too loud - the only way you would hear them sound like this in concert is if they were amplified, and that's clearly not indicated in the score. Perhaps Alsop and/or the engineers decided that this would add "clarity" to the recording, but it really doesn't (in fact, it gets a bit irritating after a while). Likewise, the change of wood blocks midway through, from quite high and piercing to low and somewhat-less-piercing, draws unnecessary attention to itself. The problem with overmiking the wood block(s) is that it feels like we're being spoon-fed the interest of this piece, which lies in the conflict derived from Adams' brilliant working of different rhythmic patterns against a steady beat. Since the piece starts with the woodblock alone spelling this beat off, it should be internalized and the actual sound should be barely audible, only sneaking through when allowed by soft dymanics in the rest of the orchestra. Contrarily, several great details are lost: the horn glisses at the first "crisis point", the tam-tam strokes at the climax (beautifully rendered in de Waart's recording) and any hint of the synthesizer that's called for in the score (again, audible in de Waart's recording). It is nice to hear such zealous piccolo playing, however out of tune it is. The only recording of this I don't know is the Masur/NYPO in their box. I would love peoples' opinions on this rendition.

The Wound Dresser is similarly marred by balance problems - for his wonderful tone, diction and phrasing, Nathan Gunn is simply too closely recorded in relation to the orchestra. The result is that, even when you can tell he's singing softly, he still buries the orchestra. When he sings loudly, he's the only sound you can pay attention to. This is one of my favorite Adams pieces and I greatly enjoy Nathan Gunn's discography. In this account the piece completely loses any intimacy, which is abundant on the recording by Sanford Sylvan (Nonesuch), not a singer I'm typically fond of. I've listened to this recording on several sound systems just to make sure the close balances weren't a result of my equipment, and sadly they aren't.

The two pieces without soloist (Short Ride sounds essentially like it has a solo woodblock throughout) come off quite a bit better. The warm transparency of the Bournemouth players works wonderfully in Adams' sensitive, dark-hued orchestration of Busoni's Berceuse élégiaque.

This is my fifth recording of Shaker Loops (here performed in the string orchestra version), and it is quite good indeed. The energy is again produced mostly by tempos slightly faster than typical, and the string sections play wonderfully when given melodic bits. It is again slightly marred by the recorded sound, which, aside from the very opening of the work, never gets as soft as it does in other recordings. At many times, I prefer the original, rawer sounding version for seven solo players. Overall, the gutsy, exaggeratedly contrasted reading given by Christopher Warren-Green on an excellent collection of "minimalist" works on Virgin remains my favorite.

$6.98 is certainly not too much to ask for a good recording of Shaker Loops, and the other performances on this Naxos release are certainly serviceable. It would have been nice, however, to have a recording of Adams' works that don't already exist in multiple versions - where is a second recording of one of his early masterpieces, Harmonielehre, for instance? I've always viewed Naxos as an excellent source of recordings of pieces not readily available on other labels, and they've been excellent in doing so with other releases in their American Classics series (such as the Bolcom set that is next in my "to listen to" pile). Is this disc a missed opportunity? I would unfortunately have to lean towards "yes" as an answer - undeniably wonderful pieces and probably wonderful performances ruined by poor choices in the mixing studio.
14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
Four Revelations by Adams, Impressive Work by Alsop and Gunn 1 Dec. 2004
By Ed Uyeshima - Published on
Format: Audio CD
As a collection of John Adams' earlier works (1979-91), this is nothing sort of a revelation for me. Long associated with the American minimalism movement, Adams composes music which I tend to think of as alternately challenging and droning with unexpected flashes of brilliance. But what is truly unexpected here is the powerfully rich and communicative nature of all four works presented here.

Whirling dervish rhythms dominate the opener, "Short Ride in a Fast Machine", an apt title as it feels like an exhilarating sportscar careening on hairpin turns, yet with a lovely gravity that is almost Coplandesque. The second piece is the most impressive, truly a soliloquy for baritone and orchestra, "The Wound-Dresser" is a stunning twenty-minute piece set to a Walt Whitman poem describing in graphic detail the poet's experiences as a nurse during the Civil War. Propelled by baritone Nathan Gunn's astonishing vocals, it is deeply eloquent and moving, all the more impressive given the often brutal lyrics about tending to bloodied and maimed soldiers on the battlefield. I just saw Gunn's galvanizing performance in the title role of Benjamin Britten's "Billy Budd" at the San Francisco Opera, and it is gratifying to hear his commanding voice, letter-perfect diction and compassionate dramatic style take over this beautiful piece so fully. And Adams elevates the drama in such surprising ways, for example, the use of clarion bugles during the climax. The composer brings a fulsome gravity to "The Wound-Dresser" presaging his masterwork elegy to 9/11, "On the Transmigration of Souls" (also strongly recommended).

The third piece is Adams' somber, poignant arrangement for chamber orchestra of an orchestral work by Ferruccio Busoni. The original, his Opus 42, dates from 1909, and it is a lovely homage from one composer to another. Here, in a more subdued manner, Adams seems to be continuing his theme of surviving through suffering started by "The Wound-Dresser"; it makes for a powerful combination. The last piece is Adams' earliest work here, and his more familiar minimalist style is far more evident with the pure string orchestra arrangement of "Shaker Loops". The athletic, almost edgy "shaking" effect of the first section is powerfully performed but not ad nauseum, and it's followed by a more stylized dramatic setting in the second movement "Hymning Slews" and the even deeper sense of revelation pervading the third section, "Loops and Verses". The final section brings the work full circle with a reinterpretation of the opening "shaking" that leads to a haunting fade-out.

The conductor of the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra and 2003 Gramophone Artist of the Year, Marin Alsop seems keenly aware of the drama and subtlety necessary to make this recording feel like one holistic work. She masterfully leads the Bournemouth orchestra, who respond by performing superbly. This is a remarkable recording, made all the more remarkable by the bargain basement price offered by Amazon, $6.98. My one quibble is incomplete documentation in the accompanying booklet. Strongly recommended.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
A Very Fine selection of the works of John Adams 11 May 2012
By Grady Harp - Published on
Format: Audio CD
This is an older recording (2004) that sadly isn't better known. Marin Alsop proves her hype with her meticulous direction of the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra for these four early works of John Adams. She can zip through all the fascinating intricacies of the Short Ride on a Fast Machine, find the eloquence of the arrangement of Berceuse elegiaque, and make the 1983 string orchestra arrangement of Shaker Loops, a 1978 composition originally written for string septet feel superior to the original lower profile.

But for this listener it is the performance by Nathan Gunn of The Wound Dresser, Walt Whitman's glorious poem set to music by Adams that makes this recording a must to won. Gunn's rich creamy baritone serves the poetry very well indeed and the quality of his vocal production is superb. The Wound Dresser rises to the level of an art song with this performance. Highly recommended. Grady Harp, May 12
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