ADAMS: Absolute Jest.: Grand Pianola Music.
Marc-André Hamlin, Orli Shaham, pianists; San Francico Symphony Orch/Mihael Tilson Thomas (Absolute)/John Adams, cond.
SAN FRANCISCO SO SACD 21938-0063 TT: 57:40

CHUNG: Concerto for Percussion and Chinese Orchestra. Emporer Qin Crushing the Battle For Mastions. ABE: Prisim Rhapsody. ZIVKOVIC: Born to Beat Wild. MAYUZUMI: Concertino for Xylophone and Orchestra.
Evelyn Glennie,Tsung-Hsin Hiisheh, percussion. Tzu- You Lin, ssuona. Taipei Chinese Orch/ En Shao cond
BIS SACD 1599 TT: 75:10

AMDAHL: Astrognosia / Aesop's Fables
Deninis Storohoi & Norwegian Radio Orch/Ingar Heine Bergby, cond.
2L SACD / DVD audio 2L 111 (one SACD/one DVD audio) TT: 51:25

The latest San Francisco SACD focuses on John Adams. both as composer and conductor. We have the work that attracted international attention. Grand Pianola Music was written in 1982 and premiered by the San Francisco Symphony with the composer conducting. This is a typically minimalist work scored for double woodwinds and brass, one tuba, three percussionists. 3 wordless female singers and two pianos.In several places the music depicts the sounds of pianos in rehearsal in a practice hall with traces of music of Chopin, Rachmaninoff, Beethoven and Haydn. Much of the work is quiet and impressionistic with two very active piano parts. It is a grand work of its type and here receives a definitive performance. record fed in January 2015. The composer conducgts, with a superb orchestra, and the two piano parts played to perfection by Marc-André Hamelin and Orli Shaham (sister of Gil). Highly entertaining indeed, which cannot be said about its companion, Absolute Jest,y composed in 2010 commissioned by several organizations as well as Michael Tilson Thomas and the San Francisco Symphony. Adams has stated that he used music of Beethoven, particularly sections from late string quartets, but I doubt most listeners will be able to find them. Featured is a string quartet, in this case the St. Lawrence group, and tyhis this is not music does not give them an opportunity to display their talents. There is no "jest" or humor in this 25-minute work; I found it to be a total bore. We can assume the performance, . recorded May 4. 2013. is definitive, with MTT and his orchestra doing what can be done. This is not music I would wish to hear again. .

A few months ago this site enthused about a BIS SACD of Chinese piano music played by Chen Sa (REVIEW). Now we have another issue in the label's admirable series of Chinese music, this one featuring percussionist Evelyn Glennie, who never ceases to amaze. She is featured in a wide range of Chinese music playing a variety of instruments, with accompaniments from the remarkable native instruments of the Chinese orchestra. There is much bombast along with episodes of serene beauty, all new and fascinating to most listeners. Recordings were made in November 2012, and the BIS engineering staff has captured the wide range of sounds with stunning clarity. The impact of the many loud bass drum whacks will test your woofers. This is a terrific SACD in every way, unusual repertory perfectly performed.. I wish this this was a video; it always is fascinating to watch Glennie work her magic.

This 2L SACD set promises much and delivers little. The concept of a surround sound recording of music associated with outer space and the planets is tantalizing. In these 17 very brief pieces the composer supposedly explores the mystery of the 12 signs of the zodiac all connected by the moon's journey through the heavens. The major work is Aesop's Fables les for narrator and orchestra based on Herman Wildenvey's translation of the famous fables, here read in a rather dramatic Norwegian by Dennis Storhoi (com[;etete text is provided in Norwegian and English)) Playing time for the disk is short (51:25). It is unfortunate the music isn't of more interest. It is pleasant but prosaic, sometimes with an attempt at humor. There are no unusual cosmic effects; this is rather like innocuous background music. Audio is full and rich with much sound coming from all speakers; too bad the music isn't more compelling. The label offers this as a two-disk set with the same program on each, presumably the DVD audio disk to excite audiophiles, who probably will be disappointed. And this is a premium-price set. The collector pays dearly for that extra disk. You've been warmed.

R.E.B. (August 2015)