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John Adams

John Coolidge Adams

(b. 1947)

Massachusetts-born composer John Coolidge Adams was born on February 15, 1947. A graduate of Harvard University, he moved to California and taught at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. There he built a reputation for innovative advocacy of contemporary works which led to a position as adviser to the San Francisco Symphony, and then, from 1979 to 1985 as the orchestra's composer-in-residence.

It was in this position that Adams' established himself as a composer beginning with the controversal opera Nixon in China premiering in 1987 and winning the 1989 Grammy for "Best Contemporary Composition". His second opera, The Death of Klinghoffer, was first performed in 1991.

Instrumental works by Adams include the Harmonium (1980), Shaker Loops (1978/83), Grand Pianola Music (1982), The Chairman Dances (1985), the fanfare Short Ride in a Fast Machine (1986), Fearful Symmetries (1988), Chamber Symphony (1992), Violin Concerto (1993), Gnarly Buttons (1996), Century Rolls (1997), and Naive and Sentimental Music (1998). His On The Transmigration of Souls for Choruses, Orchestra, and Electronic Sound won the 2003 Pulitzer Prize in Music. Adams is among the the most frequently-performed living American composers.

Recommended Recordings

Grand Pianola Music

Nonesuch 79219
Grand Pianola Music with Short Ride in a Fast Machine/Chandos CHAN9363
Stephen Mosco/Netherlands Wind Ensemble
Grand Pianola Music with Chamber Symphony/Nonesuch 79219
John Adams/London Sinfonietta
Grand Pianola Music with music by Reich/EMI Red Line CDR5729942
Ransom Wilson/Solisti New York


Telarc CD-80365
Harmonium for Orchestra/ECM New Series 478118-21277-2
Edo De Waart/San Francisco Symphony Orchestra & Chorus
Harmonium for Orchestra with Choruses from Death of Klinghoffer/Nonesuch 79549
John Adams/San Francisco Symphony Orchestra & Chorus
Harmonium for Orchestra with Rachmaninoff/Telarc CD-80365
Robert Shaw/Atlanta Symphony Orchestra & Chorus