Composer, conductor, and creative thinker—John Adams occupies a unique position in the world of American music. His works stand out among contemporary classical compositions for their depth of expression, brilliance of sound, and the profoundly humanist nature of their themes.
Among Adams’s works are several of the most performed contemporary classical pieces today: Harmonielehre, Shaker Loops, Chamber Symphony, Absolute Jest, Short Ride in a Fast Machine, and his Violin Concerto. His stage works, many in collaboration with director Peter Sellars, include Nixon in China, The Death of Klinghoffer, El Niño, Doctor Atomic, A Flowering Tree, the Passion oratorio The Gospel According to the Other Mary, and Girls of the Golden West. Adams’s most recent opera, Antony and Cleopatra, featuring a libretto adapted by the composer from Shakespeare’s tragedy, receives its European premiere at the Gran Teatre del Liceu in fall 2023 in a production directed by Elkhanah Pulitzer and conducted by Adams himself.
This season, John Adams’s Frenzy for orchestra receives its world premiere with the London Symphony Orchestra and Sir Simon Rattle, who tour the work to multiple cities in Europe.
Adams is the 2019 recipient of the Erasmus Prize “for notable contributions to European culture, society and social science”—the only American composer to be so honored in the prize’s 61-year history. As an advocate of his composer colleagues Adams has premiered over 100 new works ranging from composers such as Glass, Riley, Rihm, Wolfe, and Gordon to works by young emerging composers. He received the 2021 Ditson Conductor’s Award from Columbia University in recognition for his “exceptional commitment to American composers.” Adams has additionally received honorary doctorates from Harvard, Yale, Northwestern University, Cambridge University, and the Juilliard School. Since 2009 he has held the position of Creative Chair with the Los Angeles Philharmonic. A provocative writer, he is author of the highly acclaimed autobiography Hallelujah Junction whose writings have appeared in both The New Yorker Magazine and the New York Times Book Review.
As a conductor of his own works and wide variety of repertoire, Adams has appeared with the Berliner Philharmoniker, Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, London Symphony Orchestra, Wiener Symphoniker, the New York Philharmonic and the Los Angeles Philharmonic, and the orchestras of Seattle, Cleveland, and Rotterdam.
In 2022, Nonesuch Records released the 40-disc John Adams Collected Works, a box set of recordings spanning more than four decades of the composer’s career with the label.