- Doctor Atomic Symphony, for orchestra
- Guide to Strange Places, for orchestra
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John Adams's Doctor Atomic Symphony, a purely instrumental work, is drawn from Adams's opera Doctor Atomic. Also on the album is Adams's 2001 piece Guide to Strange Places. This is the premiere recording of both works. David Robertson conducts the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra on his first CD with the ensemble.
Doctor Atomic Symphony's three movements include music from the opera's overture; the Act II "panic" music; the "military matters" sections from Act I; and an orchestral setting of Robert Oppenheimer's signature "Batter My Heart" aria that closes Act I of the opera. Creating a symphony from a three-hour opera proved to be no small task, as Adams told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch: "It was like being a filmmaker, with cans and cans of footage I'd shot, and I had to edit it in a meaningful way."
Guide to Strange Places was inspired by a book Adams found in Provence: Guide noir de la Provence mystérieuse (A Black Guide to Mysterious Provence). He says, "It was one of those typically French guides -- minutely detailed and bristling with information and odd facts about the area. In this location there was a strange geological formation; in another, unusual climatic occurrences; somewhere else a horrific historical event had taken place or perhaps a miracle had been witnessed. A chapter was dedicated to paysages insolites -- or 'strange places.' Each classification came with its own special identifying icon. It set my imagination off." Adams continues, "In a sense, all of my pieces are travel pieces, often through paysages insolites -- it’s the way I experience musical form." -- From the Label