The John Adams Album is not a compilation or survey, but rather a somewhat personal statement from conductor Kent Nagano as he prepares to leave Montreal and its Orchestre Symphonique. Adams and Nagano go back a long way, and the album is also an unusually vivid meeting place of artists, conductor, hall, and engineers. Grammy nominators should be aware that this release is one of the engineering feats of the year. Decca's crew captures the awesome transparency of the Maison Symphonique de Montréal at its best, and that factor seems to have influenced Nagano in his program. Common Tones in Simple Time was Adams' first major orchestral work, and it's not often played. It's minimalist but straining at the restrictions of the genre in its original form, and it depends on a performance that makes the subtle divisions of the orchestral textures sparkle. This it receives from Nagano, and this piece alone is worth the price here. The familiar Short Ride in a Fast Machine also has a magic combination of transparency and immediacy and the orchestra's brass shine. Nagano goes for the same richness of texture in the Harmonielehre, and though he achieves it, one misses a certain intensity here. The middle movement, "The Anfortas Wound," may work better if it suddenly departs from the composer's previous cool exterior. Your mileage or kilometers may vary, and this is a fine accomplishment to cap Nagano's French Canadian tenure. Recommended, and essential if you've been looking for something on which you can try out your new high-end sound rig.
AllMusic Review by James Manheim