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John Adams Named BBC Radio 3's Composer of the Week

John Adams 2009 color w/scores

John Adams has been selected as BBC Radio 3’s Composer of the Week this week. All this week, the program is presenting interviews with Adams along with illustrative examples of music from Nonesuch recordings throughout his career, from one of Adams's earliest works, 1973's Christian Zeal & Activity, to his 2008 String Quartet, as heard on his latest Nonesuch album, from 2011.

The week's programs began on Monday with an episode dedicated to Adams' life on the West Coast. Presenter Donald Macleod talks with Adams about his life in California and plays works from the composer's repertoire that have been inspired by it, including Shaker Loops (1983), The Dharma at Big Sur (2003), and Naive and Sentimental Music (1998). You can listen to the episode here.

On today's episode, titled My Father's Song, the show looks at Adams' ties to the clarinet, an instrument taught to him by his father, and talks to the composer about the influence of Charles Ives on his own work. The show features, fittingly, My Father Knew Charles Ives (2003), as well as John's Book of Alleged Dances (1994), Gnarly Buttons (1996), and On the Transmigration of Souls (2002). Listen to that episode here.

On Wednesday, September 5, at noon and again at 6 PM BST, Composer of the Week further examines the Ives connection as well as a wider range of influences, from Schoenberg to Duke Ellington, in Adams's work. The episode will include Short Ride in a Fast Machine (1986), Son of Chamber Symphony (2007), Christian Zeal and Activity, and his String Quartet. That episode will be available here.

Just after the encore presentation of Wednesday's segment, at 7 PM BST, BBC Radio 3 will broadcast, live from Royal Albert Hall in London, Prom 72, on which Adams will conduct the BBC Singers and Symphony Orchestra in his groundbreaking debut opera, Nixon in China. (Adams and the BBC musicians perform the Berlin premiere of Nixon in China next Monday, September 10, at the Philharmonie.)

The Composer of the Week profile resumes Thursday at noon with a segment titled Wide Open Spaces, which looks at the idea of travel in Adams's work—featuring Road Movies (1995), Hallelujah Junction (1998), and Fearful Symmetries (1988)—as well as the state of contemporary music in America. Wide Open Spaces can be heard on Thursday here.

Finally, on Friday, Composer of the Week's focus on John Adams culminates in look at his operas. Macleod talks to Adams about public reactions to his 1991 opera The Death of Klinghoffer and plays selections from Adams' 2000 Nativity oratorio El Niño, his latest opera, A Flowering Tree (2006), and Doctor Atomic Symphony (2007), which Adams wrote based on his 2005 opera on the creation of the atomic bomb. That episode will be available starting Friday, September 7, here.

For more information on Composer of the Week: John Adams, go to To purchase any of the recordings heard on this week's shows, head to the Nonesuch Store, where most CD orders include instant downloads of the album at checkout.


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