Year / Artwork Title Importance Medium
1977 Phrygian Gates 4.00 stars CD
Gloria Cheng-Cochran - Piano
1977 China Gates 4.00 stars CD
Gloria Cheng-Cochran - Piano
1978 Shaker Loops 4.50 stars CD
Shaker Loops Comments:
Shaking and Trembling
Hymning Slews
Loops and Verses
A Final Shaking

London Chamber Orchestra cond. Christopher Warren-Green

1984-1985 Harmonie Lehre 4.50 stars CD
Shaker Loops Comments:
City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra
cond. Simon Rattle
1985 The Chairman dances 4.50 stars CD
Shaker Loops Comments:
City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra
cond. Simon Rattle
1985 Tromba Lonttana 4.50 stars CD
Shaker Loops Comments:
City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra
cond. Simon Rattle
1986 Short Ride on a Fast Machine 4.50 stars CD
Shaker Loops Comments:
City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra
cond. Simon Rattle
1986 Short Ride on a Fast Machine 4.50 stars DVD-R
BBC Symphony Orchestra
cond. Marin Alsop

Recorded from BBC Proms 2014

1987 Nixon in China 4.00 stars 3 CD

Time: February 1972.Place: In and around Beijing (then known as Peking)

Act 1

Pat Nixon is conducted on a tour of Peking, February 23, 1972.

At Peking Airport, contingents of the Chinese military await the arrival of the American presidential aircraft "Spirit of '76", carrying Nixon and his party. The military chorus sings "The Three Main Rules of Discipline" and "The Eight Points of Attention". After the aircraft touches down, Nixon emerges with Pat Nixon and Henry Kissinger. The president exchanges stilted greetings with the Chinese premier, Chou En-lai, who heads the welcoming party. Nixon speaks of the historical significance of the visit, and of his hopes and fears for the encounter ("News has a kind of mystery"). The scene changes to Chairman Mao's study, where the Chairman awaits the arrival of the presidential party. Nixon and Kissinger enter with Chou, and Mao and the president converse in banalities as photographers record the scene. In the discussion that follows, the westerners are confused by Mao's gnomic and frequently impenetrable comments, which are amplified by his secretaries and often by Chou. The scene changes again, to the evening's banquet in the Great Hall of the People. Chou toasts the American visitors ("We have begun to celebrate the different ways") Nixon responds: ("I have attended many feasts"), after which the toasts continue, as the atmosphere becomes increasingly convivial. Nixon, a politician who rose to prominence on anti-communism, announces: "Everyone, listen; just let me say one thing. I opposed China, I was wrong".

Act 2

Scene from the ballet The Red Detachment of Women, witnessed by the Nixons on February 22, 1972

Pat Nixon is touring the city, with guides. Factory workers present her with a small model elephant which, she delightedly informs them, is the symbol of the Republican Party which her husband leads. She visits a commune where she is greeted enthusiastically, and is captivated by the children's games that she observes in the school. "I used to be a teacher many years ago", she sings, "and now I'm here to learn from you". She moves on to the Summer Palace, where in a contemplative aria ("This is prophetic") she envisages a peaceful future for the world. In the evening the presidential party, as guests of Mao's wife Chiang Ch'ing, attends the Peking Opera for a performance of a political ballet-opera The Red Detachment of Women. This depicts the downfall of a cruel and unscrupulous landlord's agent (played by an actor who strongly resembles Kissinger) at the hands of brave women revolutionary workers. The action deeply affects the Nixons; at one point Pat rushes onstage to help a peasant girl she thinks is being whipped to death. As the stage action ends, Chiang Ch'ing, angry at the apparent misinterpretation of the piece's message, sings a harsh aria ("I am the wife of Mao Tse-tung"), praising the Cultural Revolution and glorifying her own part in it. A revolutionary chorus echoes her words.

Act 3

On the last evening of the visit, as they lie in their respective beds, the chief protagonists muse on their personal histories in a surreal series of interwoven dialogues. Nixon and Pat recall the struggles of their youth; Nixon evokes wartime memories ("Sitting round the radio"). Mao and Chiang Ch'ing dance together, as the Chairman remembers "the tasty little starlet" who came to his headquarters in the early days of the revolution. As they reminisce, Chiang Ch'ing asserts that "the revolution must not end". Chou meditates alone; the opera finishes on a thoughtful note with his aria "I am old and I cannot sleep", asking: "How much of what we did was good?" The early morning birdcalls are summoning him to resume his work, while "outside this room the chill of grace lies heavy on the morning grass".


DR. HENRY KISSINGER, National Security Adviser to the Nixon Administration, took little part in the public ceremonies of the 1972 China visit, His role was largely behind the scenes, negotiating the terms of the visit and the wording of the Shanghai Communiqué, a role he approached as (in Richard Nixon’s words) “a brilliant geopolitical thinker of the first rank.”

RICHARD M. NIXON, President of the United States from 1969 to 1974, spent the latter years of the Second World War as a naval lieutenant in the South Pacific. There he perfected his poker game, opened a hamburger stand where homesick American pilots and their crews could get a free burger and a soft drink, and wrote his wife a letter every day.

PAT NIXON, the First Lady, was widely reputed to dislike the political life. According to her husband, she would have preferred “to walk quietly along the edge of some deserted beach.” Whatever her private reservations, on the trip to China, as on all her other trips abroad, Mrs. Nixon became an ambassador of good will among the ordinary people of the country, and never stopped smiling.

CHIANG CH’ING: Madame Mao circulated so many stories about her background that it is difficult to be sure of the truth. As “Lan P’ing” she was an actress in Shanghai and aspired to work in films (later in life she confessed a partiality for Gone with the Wind and The Sound of Music). In her mid twenties she found her way to the Chinese Communist Party headquarters in Yenan and caught the roving eye of Mao Tse tung. Shortly thereafter she became his fourth wife. For fifteen years she lived quietly, but her revolutionary zeal and artistic ambitions increased, to culminate in the major role she played in the Cultural Revolution. She took command of an extreme left wing faction (with the notorious “Gang of Four”) and made the reform of Peking Opera her special mission. During the 1960s she produced five ideologically pure revolutionary ballets—among them The Red Detachment of Women—which occupied the Chinese stage for ten years.

MAO TSE TUNG: Chairman Mao was probably the closest thing to Plato’s Philosopher King that the world will ever see. He was a brilliant peasant autodidact who played up his thick Southern accent, spat, belched, and scratched himself. He wrote great poetry in the classic Chinese forms, and later banned those forms. In a country he had made puritan, he was an inveterate womanizer. His enemies destroyed one another; millions died who opposed his thought.

Cast (in order of appearance):

Chou En-Lai: Sanford Sylvan
Richard Nixon: James Maddalena
Henry Kissinger: Thomas Hammons
Nancy T’ang (First Secretary to Mao): Mari Opatz
Second Secretary to Mao: Stephanie Friedman
Third Secretary to Mao: Marion Dry
Mao Tse-Tung: John Duykers
Pat Nixon: Carolann Page
Chiang Ch’in (Madame Mao Tse-Tung): Trudy Ellen Craney

Orchestra of St. Luke’s
Edo de Waart, conductor
Michael Feldman, artistic director
Louise Schulman, associate music director
Howard Jang, production manager
Violin: Mayuki Fukuhara, Amy Hiraga, Mineko Yajima, Anca Nicolau
Viola: Louise Schulman, Jennie Hansen, Stephanie Fricker
Cello: Maxine Neuman, co-principal; Myron Lutzke, Rosalyn Clarke, Karl Bennion
Bass: John T. Kulowitsch, John Feeney
Flute/Piccolo: Timothy Malosh, Sheryl Henze
Oboe: Stephen Taylor
Oboe / English Horn: Melanie Feld
Clarinet / E-Flat Clarinet: William Blount
Clarinet / Bass Clarinet: David Stanton, Gerhardt Koch
Saxophone: Lawrence Feldman, Ted Nash, Albert Regni, Roger Rosenberg
Trumpet: Chris Gekker, Carl Albach, Susan Radcliffe
Trombone: Michael Powell, Kenneth Finn, John Rojak
Percussion: Randall Maz
Yamaha HX-1 Synthesizer: John McGinn
Piano: Edmund Niemann, Martin Goldray

Conoley E. Ballard Jr., chorus master
Jacqueline Pierce, chorus contractor
Soprano: Judy Berry, Sharon Daniels, Karen Grahn, Dana Hancard, Lorraine Kelley, Michele McBride
Alto: Patty Davis, Jay Ann Lee, Karen Leigh, Mary Runyan Marathe, Ruth Porter, Barbara Rearick
Tenor: James Bassi, Rodne Brown, Mukund Marathe, Edgar Moore, Martin Pierce
Bass: Roger Andrews, Christopher Arneson, Frank Curtis, Leslie Dorsey, Joseph Shockler, Todd Thomas
1995 Lollapalooza 4.00 stars CD
Lollapalooza was written as a fortieth birthday present for Simon Rattle who was been a friend and collaborator for many years. The term "lollapalooza" has an uncertain etymology, and just that vagueness may account for its popularity as an archetypical American word. It suggests something large, outlandish, oversized, not unduly refined. H.L. Mencken suggests it may have originally meant a knockout punch in a boxing match. I was attracted to it because of its internal rhythm: da-da-da-DAAH-da. Hence, in my piece, the word is spelled out in the trombones and tubas, C-C-C-Eb-C (emphasis on the Eb) as a kind of ideé fixe. The "lollapalooza" motive is only one of a profusion of other motives, all appearing and evolving in a repetitive chain of events that moves this dancing behemoth along until it ends in a final shout by the horns and trombones and a terminal thwack on timpani and bass drum.

The Hallé Orchestra
Conducted by Kent Negano

1995 I was looking at the ceiling and then I saw the sky 3.50 stars 2 CD
I was looking Comments:
Is this appeasement or capitulation?
This "Opera" is not about somebody stealing two bottles of beer, but about a cheesy easy-listening radio-station.

Rather good singers but their attempt to sing with an American accent is in vain.

Young Opera Company Freiburg cond. Klaus Simon

Hard Rock? My Ass!!

1996 Slonimsky's Earbox 4.00 stars CD
Composer's Notes: 
Slonimsky's Earbox was composed in 1995 on a commission from two orchestras: the Hallé Orchestra in Manchester, England and the Oregon Symphony in Portland, Oregon. The work is dedicated to Kent Nagano, conductor, longtime friend and a constant supporter of my music. Kent conducted the world premiere in September of 1996 in the new Bridgewater Hall in Manchester, England. The American premiere was conducted by James de Preist, another friend and proponent, who also presented the work the following year with the Boston Symphony Orchestra.

Slonimsky's Earbox marked an important turning point in my orchestral music, coming as it did after a period of harmonic and contrapuntal experimentation that began with The Death of Klinghoffer and progressed through the Chamber Symphony and Violin Concerto. The new piece seems in retrospect to have pointed toward a successful integration of the older minimalist techniques (repetitive motifs, steady background pulse and stable harmonic areas) the more complex, more actively contrapuntal language of the post-Klinghoffer pieces. The model for this piece was the exploding first few moments of Stravisnky's symphonic poem, Le Chant du Rossignol (The Song of the Nightengale). The way Stravinsky's orchestra bursts out in a brilliant eruption of colors, shapes and sounds.What also attracted me was Stravinsky's use of modal scales, a practice doubtless influenced by his Russian roots but which he abandoned soon after. I have long thought that the Russians not only Stravinsky but composers like Scriabin and Tcherepnin had begun something very important in their use of modal scales and harmonies, a direction that unfortunately was overwhelmed by more prestigous practices such as Neoclassicism and Serialism.

Another Russian, Nicholas Slonimsky, who was best known in this country as being the witty author of several books on music, had in 1947 compiled an exhaustive compendium of scales and melodic patterns (i.e. modes) called The Thesaurus of Scales and Melodic Patterns. Slonimsky was a character of mind-boggling abilities. He had a completey eidetic memory and could recall with absolute precision the smallest detail of something he'd read forty years before. He lived to be over a hundred, and his century spanned Czarist St. Petersburg where he was educated as a child to Santa Monica, California, where he lived into the 1990's and where I'd come to know him. His autobiography, "Perfect Pitch", stands alongside Berlioz's memoirs as one of the few genuinely original literary works about music.

The "Slonimsky" in my title not only memorializes his wit and hyper-energetic activity, but it also acknowledged my great debt to his thesaurus, whose scales and resulting harmonies have had a singular impact on my music since the Chamber Symphony of 1992. "Earbox" might be a word worthy of Slonimsky himself, a coiner who never tired of minting his own.

Reprinted with kind permission of

The Hallé Orchestra
Conducted by Kent Negano

1997 Century Rolls 4.50 stars CD

Century Rolls is a piano concerto by the American composer John Adams. Commissioned by Emanuel Ax, the work dates from 1997. Ax was the soloist in the concerto's premiere on September 25, 1997 in Cleveland, Ohio, with Christoph von Dohnanyi conducting The Cleveland Orchestra. Ax, von Dohnanyi and The Cleveland Orchestra made the first commercial recording of the concerto, for Nonesuch. Adams himself conducted the UK premiere on 1 November 1998, again with Ax as the piano soloist.

Adams conceived the work after hearing the distinct sounds of a 1920s player piano, and used this concerto to attempt to recreate that sound. He has said that the concerto is his view on "the whole past century of piano music" In addition to the temporal element ("Century"), the title refers to old piano rolls

Emanuel Ax - Piano
Cleveland Orchestra cond. Christoph Dohnanyi

2000 El Nino 4.00 stars DVD
El Niño is an opera-oratorio by the American composer John Adams. It was premiered on December 15, 2000 at the Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris by the Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin, the London Voices, the vocal ensemble Theatre of Voices, (comprising countertenors Daniel Bubeck, Brian Cummings and Steven Rickards, La Maîtrise de Paris, and soloists Dawn Upshaw, Lorraine Hunt Lieberson and Willard White), with Kent Nagano conducting. It has been performed on a number of occasions since, and has been broadcast on BBC Television.

Described as a "nativity oratorio", it retells the Christmas story, with the first half focusing on Mary's thoughts before the birth in the stable in Bethlehem, and the second half covering the aftermath of the birth, Herod's slaughter of the Holy Innocents, and the early life of Jesus.

The text follows the traditional biblical story but also incorporates text from the King James Bible, the Wakefield Mystery Plays, Martin Luther's Christmas Sermon, the Gospel of Luke, and several gnostic gospels from the Apocrypha. Also included are poems by Rosario Castellanos, Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, Gabriela Mistral, Vicente Huidobro, Rubén Darío, librettist Peter Sellars, and Adams himself. He also quotes Gabriela Mistral's "The Christmas Star" and incorporates a choral setting of "O quam preciosa" by Hildegard von Bingen.





Stage Director PETER SELLARS

2004-2005 Dr. Atomic 4.00 stars DVD

Doctor Atomic is the fifth work for the stage that Adams and his longtime collaborator of nearly twenty years, Peter Sellars, have created. Beginning with Nixon in China (Houston, 1987), Adams and Sellars have created The Death of Klinghoffer (Brussells, 1991), I Was Looking at the Ceiling and Then I Saw the Sky (Berkeley, 1995) and El Nino (Paris, 2000).

Doctor Atomic concerns the final hours leading up to the first atomic bomb explosion at the Alamagordo test site in New Mexico in July of 1945. The focal characters are the physicist and Manhattan Project director, Dr. J. Robert Oppenheimer; his wife Kitty; Edward Teller; and General Leslie Groves, the US Army commander of the project. The theme for this opera was suggested to Adams by Pamela Rosenberg, General Director of the San Franciso Opera.

The libretto of Doctor Atomic was created by Peter Sellars, drawing on original source material, including personal memoirs, recorded interviews, technical manuals of nuclear physics, declassified government documents, and the poetry of Muriel Rukeyser, an American poet and contemporary of Oppenheimer.

J. Robert Oppenheimer: Gerald Finley
Kitty Oppenheimer: Jessica Rivera
General Leslie Groves: Eric Owens
Edward Teller: Richard Paul Fink
Jack Hubbard: James Maddalena
Robert Wilson: Thomas Glenn
Captain James Nolan: Jay Hunter Morris
Pasqualita: Ellen Rabiner
Musical Director: Lawrence Renes
Stage Director: Peter Sellars

The Nethrtlands Opera

2013 Saxophone Concerto 4.00 stars DVD-R
Timothy McAllister - Alto Saxophone
BBC Symphony Orchestra
cond. Marin Alsop

Recorded from BBC Proms 2014