Meet John Adams, the Composer of “Nixon in China”

If you’re looking for a quick introduction to John Adams and Nixon in China, check out the recent Composer Profile on OperaWire. Calling Adams “one of the great American composers of the late 20th century,” the article summarizes his achievements and refers to Nixon as “a mainstay since its world premiere [in 1987].” It includes audio recordings of the opera with a score you can follow.

Also be sure to look at Adams’s own account of the creation of Nixon in China on his official website.

The biography of this extraordinarily accomplished composer/conductor/writer makes for fascinating reading as well.

On February 21 the Praemium Erasmianum Foundation announced it had awarded Adams the 2019 Erasmus Prize in recognition of of the new musical idiom he has created by fusing elements from jazz, pop and classical music. According to the Foundation’s statement, Adams has made contemporary classical music “communicate” again. In addition, the award cites his focus on social concerns and the way he calls attention to the importance of classical music as a composer, conductor, and writer.

Adams’s music has won the Pulitzer Prize, numerous Grammy awards, and the Grawemeyer Award. His fanfare for orchestra, “Short Ride in a Fast Machine” is the most-often-played orchestral piece by a contemporary composer. (Hear Adams tell the story of its composition in this video from the San Francisco Symphony.) In 2017 the Berlin Philharmonic released “The John Adams Edition,” a set of six CDs and DVDs of his music and interviews, in honor of his 70th birthday. The music was recorded live during his year as the orchestra’s Composer in Residence.

Adams is esteemed as an author as well, frequently contributing articles to the New York Times and The New Yorker magazine. His memoir Hallelujah Junction was named a “notable book of the year” by the New York Times.