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John Adams

Composer, conductor and creative thinker—John Adams occupies a unique position in the world of American music. His works, both operatic and symphonic, stand out among contemporary classical compositions for their depth of expression, brilliance of sound and the profoundly humanist nature of their themes.

Works spanning more than three decades have entered the repertoire and are among the most performed of all contemporary classical music, among them Harmonielehre, Shaker Loops, Chamber Symphony, Doctor Atomic Symphony, Short Ride in a Fast Machine and his Violin Concerto. His stage works, all in collaboration with director Peter Sellars, include Nixon in China (1987), The Death of Klinghoffer (1991), El Niño (2000), Doctor Atomic (2005), A Flowering Tree (2006) and the Passion oratorio The Gospel According to the Other Mary (2012).

In November 2017, Adams’s new opera Girls of the Golden West, set during the 1850s California Gold Rush, received its world premiere at San Francisco Opera. The opera’s unique libretto, assembled by Sellars, includes original Gold Rush song lyrics, letters, journal entries and personal memoirs from the era.

Adams received the 1993 Grawemeyer Award for his Violin Concerto, as well as the 2003 Pulitzer Prize for composing On the Transmigration of Souls, commissioned by the New York Philharmonic to commemorate the first anniversary of 9/11. He has been awarded honorary doctorates from Harvard, Yale, Northwestern University, Cambridge University, the Juilliard School and the Royal Academy of Music, where he has recently been appointed as a visiting professor of composition. A provocative writer, he is the author of the highly acclaimed autobiography Hallelujah Junction and is a contributor to The New York Times Book Review.

As a conductor, Adams appears with the world’s major orchestras in programs combining his own works with a wide variety of repertoire ranging from Beethoven and Mozart to Ives, Carter, Zappa, Glass and Ellington. In recent seasons, he has conducted the Berliner Philharmoniker, Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, London Symphony Orchestra, Wiener Symphoniker, Los Angeles Philharmonic, and the orchestras of Seattle, Cincinnati, Atlanta and Toronto. Adams is currently creative chair of the Los Angeles Philharmonic.

In November 2017, the Berliner Philharmoniker released The John Adams Edition, a new box set of performances conducted by Adams (Harmonielehre and Scheherazade.2 with violinist Leila Josefowicz), Gustavo Dudamel (City Noir), Alan Gilbert (Short Ride in a Fast Machine and Lollapalooza), Kirill Petrenko (The Wound-Dresser with baritone Georg Nigl) and Sir Simon Rattle (The Gospel According to the Other Mary). Other recent recordings of Adams’ work include Scheherazade.2 with Josefowicz and St. Louis Symphony on Nonesuch Records, the Deutsche Grammophon release of The Gospel According to the Other Mary featuring the Los Angeles Philharmonic, City Noir and Saxophone Concerto with the St. Louis Symphony, a Grammy-winning album featuring Harmonielehre and Short Ride in a Fast Machine and the premiere recording of Absolute Jest paired with Grand Pianola Music, both with the San Francisco Symphony, and the Nonesuch DVD of the Metropolitan Opera’s production of Nixon in China conducted by the composer.