Theatre: Dance to the music

CD; `JOHN'S BOOK OF ALLEGED DANCES; GNARLY BUTTONS' (BY JOHN ADAMS) KRONOS QUARTET LONDON SINFONIETTA
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The Independent Culture
AFTER Steve Reich's multifaceted Different Trains, Kronos switch to John Adams and streetcars rattling from beach to town and back again.

John's Dances are "alleged" because, as he says, "steps for them have yet to be invented". Hotfoot rhythms on a sampled prepared piano kick the gravel as we encounter streetcars in motion, furious cello triads being ridden "like a rodeo", a madcap hoedown, a swinging "Pavane" for Kronos's Joan Jeanrenaud "who's so fine"; then "a swinging scat song for four voices in parallel motion", a bluesy "Habanera", a tough-grained toccata, slithery harmonics for "Alligator Escalator" and a streetcar ride back to the ocean.

Adams's junkyard antics will have you cocking an ear, or dancing, or both; but not so Gnarly Buttons, darker music that takes an occasional glance back at Schoenberg's Serenade. It was written for British clarinettist Michael Collins - "whose way of playing most approximates my own ideal", says Adams -- and ends with a cool, simple song, "Put Your Loving Arms around Me".

The London Sinfonietta performs with their customary ease and facility and the recorded sound does them full justice. Another Nonesuch bull's- eye, then, and renewed confirmation that good new music can entertain without artistic compromise.

Nonesuch 7559-79465-2

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