Yuja Wang – John Adams: Must the Devil Have All the Good Tunes (2020)
FLAC (tracks) 24 bit/96 kHz | Time – 30:57 minutes | 611 MB | Genre: Classical
Studio Masters, Official Digital Download | Front cover | © Deutsche Grammophon (DG)
One of the most refreshing things about John Adams is that despite all of the hosannas and honors that he has accumulated, he wears it all lightly. That’s reflected in the irreverent titles for his compositions: “Gnarly Buttons,” “Son of Chamber Symphony,” “Roll Over Beethoven” and “American Berserk” among them.
So when it was announced that Adams would be writing a new piece for star pianist Yuja Wang and the Los Angeles Philharmonic for a world premiere at Walt Disney Concert Hall on Thursday night, he was ready. Would he call his new concerto — a belated successor to “Eros Piano” and “Century Rolls” — his Piano Concerto No. 3? Not a chance. Instead, he came up with this honey of a title: “Must the Devil Have All the Good Tunes?”
There’s nothing terribly new in John Adams’ Must the Devil Have All the Good Tunes?, whose title the composer says he got from an old New Yorker article about Dorothy Day (it goes back to the world of Methodist hymnody in the 18th century), but the work is an excellent specimen of this composer’s ability to appeal to a specific audience at a specific time, and it hits all the qualities that have made Adams such a favorite for so long. The work, commissioned by the Los Angeles Philharmonic and conductor Gustavo Dudamel, and premiered by the pianist here, the exuberant Yuja Wang, features motor rhythms, bits of popular influence, and a lyrical slow movement in which Adams says he was specifically influenced by Wang’s sparkling style. The rhythms are goosed by an electric bass and a detuned “honky-tonk” piano, which aren’t outwardly very apparent but make their presence felt; they are new and logical additions to Adams’ arsenal. The result is a work that is a hell of a lot of fun, performed by probably its ideal interpreters, and what could be better than that? Other pianists are going to want a crack at this work. The online version of the album, released in the spring of 2020, ends with Adams’ early China Gates, a lovely short work in the Steve Reich vein; a physical CD was delayed by the coronavirus epidemic but was promised for the future and is planned to contain additional pieces.
1. Yuja Wang – I. Gritty, Funky, But in strict Tempo; Twitchy, Bot-Like
2. Yuja Wang – II. Much Slower; Gently, Relaxed
3. Yuja Wang – III. Piú mosso: Obsession / Swing
4. Yuja Wang – Adams: China Gates