John Adams' music combines the songful quality of Philip Glass with the structural rigors of Steve Reich and the pulsations of both with his own canny sense of invention to create a hybrid with ambitions that go beyond most minimalism. Many of his works have narrative concepts or programs which add to their accessibility. 'El Dorado' comprises a pair of orchestral pieces which depict two contrasting worlds, one plundered by greed and one pristine.
Greed comes first. In "Dream of Gold" sinuous lines slowly emerge over beating maracas and multiply like weeds, tensions mounting until the whole process strangles itself. "Soledades" is a day in the life of paradise, as a sleepy pre-dawn bass line wakens chirping synthesizers then gives way to a triumphant pulsing shower of sunlight and valedictory sunset before returning to reclaim the night. Kent Nagano, the modern composer's friend, conducts the Hallé Orchestra in 'El Dorado' while Adams himself directs the London Sinfonietta in his arrangements of piano pieces by Busoni and Liszt.