Must the Devil Have All the Good Tunes? is American composer John Adams’ latest creation for piano, and continues his provocative exploration of that instrument heard in Grand Pianola Music (1983) and Hallelujah Junction (2001). Deutsche Grammophon’s recording of Adams’ first piano concerto in several decades is now set for release as a Dolby Atmos® e-album via Amazon and as an e-video on Apple Music and Tidal on 21 August 2020, followed by the release of a vinyl edition on 16 October. The album has been digitally available since 17 April 2020.
Written by Adams for pianist Yuja Wang, this Los Angeles Philharmonic commission had its world premiere at Walt Disney Concert Hall in March 2019. The orchestra, Music & Artistic Director Gustavo Dudamel and Ms. Wang returned to the iconic venue the following November to make this live recording of a work The New York Times has described as “uneasily fascinating … [a] beautifully disconcerting concerto.”
As is always true of Adams’ music, an initial thread of inspiration – in this case the phrase that became the work’s title – is woven together with many others, including Liszt, Ligeti, gospel music and more: the opening is marked “Gritty, Funky”, while the third and final section is marked “Obsession/Swing.” As noted by Musical America, the concerto “bristles with a percussive, highly rhythmic, technically fearsome piano part … [and is] an excitable, satisfying, boisterous vehicle for Wang and Dudamel.”
Adams’ ability to deconstruct aesthetic clichés and bridge the gaps between different forms of music has earned him worldwide appreciation, as demonstrated last year when he became the first American composer to be awarded the prestigious Erasmus Prize for his contribution to contemporary classical music.
Must the Devil Have All the Good Tunes? continues his close connection with the Los Angeles Philharmonic. Established almost 40 years ago, their relationship grew even stronger in 2009 when Gustavo Dudamel appointed Adams to the newly created position of Creative Chair.
Dudamel has championed the composer’s music for years, and his DG discography already includes the orchestral work City Noir, recorded at his inaugural Walt Disney Concert Hall concert with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, and the oratorio The Gospel According to the Other Mary – directed by Peter Sellars and featuring an impressive team of soloists – which was recorded at the same venue four years later.
As for soloist Yuja Wang, she gives an outstanding performance, bringing “scintillating finger-work to … this high-octane recording” (Financial Times). With her electrifying technique, she effortlessly masters the intricate and at times exceptionally difficult piano writing, successfully weaving lightness and elegance together with dynamism and explosiveness – the contrasting but characteristic qualities of Adams’ music. Reviewing the premiere, The Washington Post noted that Ms. Wang was “as impressive for her poetic sensibilities as for her pyrotechnic dazzle.” The sheer brilliance of her music-making is ideally captured in these new editions of this vibrant recording.