Official John Adams Composer2019-02-27T10:55:23+00:00

John Adams to receive Erasmus Prize for 2019

The Erasmus Prize, one of Europe’s most prestigious cultural honors, will be awarded this year to John Adams. Adams will be only the third composer—and the first American composer—to be chosen in the Prize’s sixty-one-year history. The Prize is for “Notable contributions to European culture, society or social science,” and previous winners include film maker Ingmar Bergman, artist Marc Chagall, philosopher Martin Buber, actor Charlie Chaplin, anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss and composer Olivier Messiaen. The Prize of €150,000 will be presented by the King of The Netherlands to John Adams in November 2019. To mark the presentation of the Erasmus Prize, the Foundation is organizing a varied program of events related to the work of John Adams.

Read the full announcement

Girls of the Golden West

European premiere: Netherlands Opera, February 28-March 17, 2019

First seen in its San Francisco Opera world premiere in November of 2017, John Adams’ provocative opera about the California Gold Rush, “Girls of the Golden West,” receives its first European performances at the Netherlands Opera in Amsterdam in February and March.

With a libretto comprising historical sources compiled by stage director Peter Sellars, this new production includes new musical and dramatic material, but features the same cast of brilliant young American singers including Julia Bullock, Davóne Tines, Paul Appleby, Ryan McKinney, J’nai Bridge, Hye-Jung Lee and Eliot Madore. The Rotterdam Philharmonic is conducted by Grant Gershon.

Must the Devil Have All the Good Tunes?

A new piano concerto by John Adams premieres March 7-10, 2019 in Los Angeles.

John Adams’ latest work, “Must the Devil Have All the Good Tunes?”, receives its first performances with pianist Yuja Wang and the Los Angeles Philharmonic conducted by Gustavo Dudamel.

Adams says of the piece, “In the same way that I first encountered the name ‘Hallelujah Junction’ and knew that I had to write a piece with that title, when I saw the phrase ‘Must the Devil Have All the Good Tunes?’ I thought to myself, ‘that’s a good title just waiting for a piece. The phrase suggested a ‘Totentanz,’ only not of the Lisztian manner, but more of funk-invested American style.”

After the initial Los Angeles performances the orchestra and Yuja Wang will tour the piece in Korea and Japan later in March with further performances in New York and Europe in the autumn.

Next season Adams will conduct performances with the Seattle Symphony and the St Louis Symphony, both with pianist Jeremy Denk, and in Paris and Amsterdam with pianist Vikingur Olafsson.

More information about the Los Angeles premiere

The John Adams Edition

Recorded during John Adam’s 70th birthday year in the 2016/17 season, while John Adams was Composer in Residence at The Berlin Philharmoniker

CD and Blue Ray DVD box set

Read More

New Releases

Dr. Atomic Opera

The first recording of John Adams‘s 2005 opera, Doctor Atomic, is out now on Nonesuch Records. Longtime Adams collaborator Peter Sellars created the libretto, drawing from original sources. The composer leads the BBC Singers and the BBC Symphony Orchestra in this recording, which features a cast led by Gerald Finley, who originated the role of Dr. J. Robert Oppenheimer.

More on Doctor Atomic Opera

John Adams Violin Concerto, Leila Josefowicz

The Boston Globe described the work as having “the qualities of intelligence, craftsmanship, and quirkiness that have always marked the composer and his work; this time Adams also mingles virtuoso show with soul, popular appeal with the staying power that comes from intellectual interest,”

More on Leila Josefowicz’ performance of Violin Concerto

The Early Years

New Biography

Born in 1947 in Massachusetts, John Adams is 10 years younger than Steve Reich and Philip Glass, with whom he is often classified as a Minimalist. His success has much to do with an espousal of modality and regular pulse – musical elements reintroduced by the Minimalists in reaction to much modernist music. Yet Adams’s approach since the late 1970s emphasises two things that early Minimalism is generally said to have rejected. One is direct emotional expression; the other concerns allusions to, and even direct…more