His innovative concerts led to his appointment firstly as contemporary music adviser to Edo de Waart and the San Francisco Symphony, and then as the orchestra's composer-in-residence between 1979 and 1985, the period in which his reputation became established with the success of such works as "Harmonium" and "Harmonielehre".
Of John Adams's compositions, the best known and most widely discussed is his opera "Nixon in China", winner of the 1989 Grammy for "Best Contemporary Composition". With this opera, the composer brought contemporary history vividly into the opera house, pioneering an entire genre of post-modern music theatre.
Adams's second opera, "The Death of Klinghoffer" had its premiere at the Brussels Opera in 1991. Described by "Newsweek" critic Katrine Ames as "a work that fires the heart," it has also been seen in Lyon, Vienna, New York and San Francisco and was given its United Kingdom premiere by the BBC SO during the 2002 January Composer Weekend dedicated to Adams's music. Depicting the 1985 murder of American Leon Klinghoffer by Islamic terrorists on the cruise ship "Achille Lauro", the opera has been criticized by some Jewish and Muslim groups as not being even-handed. John Adams has said that much of the controversy may stem from the fact that the terrorists are not portrayed as “poster board villains” in the opera.
His next stage work, entitled "I Was Looking at the Ceiling and Then I Saw the Sky", is described as a "song play", scored for seven singers and an onstage band of eight instrumentalists.
Adams's newest opera, "Doctor Atomic", premiered October 1.st 2005. The action is centred on the very first test of the atomic bomb, and is mainly about J. Robert Oppenheimer.
Adams has in his mature work harnessed the rhythmic energy of Minimalism to an extraordinary harmonic palette and fertile orchestral imagination, with the strong influence of late-Romanticism evident.
For his Violin Concerto, Adams was awarded the 1995 Grawemeyer Award for Music Composition. Other honours include the California Governor's Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Arts, the Cyril Magnin Award for Outstanding Achievement in the Arts, and the rank of "Chevalier dans l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres", awarded by the French Ministry of Culture.
John Adams became the BBC Symphony Orchestra's Artist in Association in June 2003. In his own words, "the position is sufficiently unstructured and flexible to allow any number of wild things to happen."
Adams's work "On the Transmigration of Souls", a choral work commemorating the September 11.th victims, won the 2003 Pulitzer Prize for Music. However, after winning the award Adams expressed "ambivalence bordering on contempt" since he felt that the prize had "lost much of the prestige it still carries in other fields" because "most of the country's greatest musical minds" have been ignored in favour of academic music.
In 2005, the premiere recording of "On the Transmigration of Souls", with Lorin Maazel conducting the New York Philharmonic, won three Grammy awards: Best Classical Album, Best Orchestral Performance, and Best Classical Contemporary Composition.
(Wikipedia: abridged and adapted)
… É por esta e outras que tais que continuo interessadíssimo na série "Grandes Músicas", que tem vindo a ser apresentada pela 2: e é da responsabilidade daquele cuja voz inconfundível conheço há anos da Antena 2 – António Cartaxo.
É dele a frase traduzida que intitula este édito e que ele, muito enfaticamente, muito poeticamente, repete no final de cada programa de "Grandes Músicas":
E não é?…