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  CD: John Adams : The Dharma At Big Sur  David Bruce at 13:16 on 13 March 2007

I enjoyed this unusual piece for electric five-string violin and orchestra. On his website Adams describes the intention of the piece:

I wanted to express the moment, the so-called “shock of recognition”, when one reaches the edge of the continental land mass. On the Atlantic coast, the air seems to announce it with its salty taste and briney scents. Coming upon the California coast is a different experience altogether. Rather than gently yielding ground to the water the Western shelf drops off violently, often from dizzying heights, as it does at Big Sur, the stretch of coastal precipice midway between Santa Cruz and Santa Barbara. Here the current pounds and smashes the littoral in a slow, lazy rhythm of terrifying power.

I think he pulls of this intention remarkably well, particularly at the moment half way through the first part where the orchestral violins - silent so far- soar in unexpectedly over gently swelling bass tremolos. These are the kind of moments that work so well in Adams's music.

If I have a criticism of the piece it is that it seems unable to find an ending - the brass 'cadence' seems tagged on and unsatisfying. But there is so much beautiful colour, and delightful Indian-inspired violin writing that it's hard not to come away from this piece uplifted.

  Re: CD: John Adams : The Dharma At Big Sur  James McFadyen at 18:40 on 13 March 2007

I bought this CD a couple of months ago and I was very much impressed with the works.

Those looking for the character of Harmonielehre or Wild Nights won't find it on this CD. However, for all Adams fans this CD, like all others, is a must.

  Re: CD: John Adams : The Dharma At Big Sur  Christopher Tin at 08:26 on 14 April 2007

Just bought this 2 CD set last week, and I have to say that I'm absolutely in love with "My Father Knew Charles Ives." Does anybody know if there's a score available for it? It's definitely not classic Adams, but it was the first piece that I'd heard from him in awhile that made me fall in love with his music all over again (like when I heard Harmonielehre for the first time).

  Re: CD: John Adams : The Dharma At Big Sur  dunkinwedd at 22:19 on 19 April 2007

The man's a genius. We are not worthy.