James Adler

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A pianist who “can create whatever type of music he wants at the keyboard” (Chicago Sun-Times), James Adler’s newest CD, James Adler Plays Syncopated Rhythms, was released in April 2008 by Albany Records.

The CD features works by James as well as Louis Moreau Gottschalk, Scott Joplin, Leo Ornstein, George Antheil, Gian Carlo Menotti, Aaron Copland and George Gershwin. As reviewed in Turok’s Choice, September 2008, “It is a virtuosic affair, brilliantly played. The centerpiece is the stunning transcription of Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue, complete, including all the cadenzas.” This is a piece Mr. Adler has performed extensively, including for an audience of 50,000 at Chicago’s Grant Park Concerts, and from New York’s Paramount Theatre to the Dimitria Festival in Thessoloniki Greece.

James Adler
Photo by: Scott Hutchison

An equally-renowned composer, Mr. Adler’s extensive list of compositions is headed by Memento mori: An AIDS Requiem. Since its premiere in Atlanta in 1996, the requiem has been performed from New York City, conducted by Johannes Somary; to Tallinn, Estonia, under the baton of Ants Soots, and to San Francisco, under the direction of Grammy-award winner Joseph Jennings.
A 75-minute work for men’s chorus, soloists, and orchestra, Memento mori features a “range of expression [that] is expansive” and is “a unique, well-crafted, emotionally rich piece,” as stated in the American Record Guide. The Choral Journalhailed it as “a powerful and wrenching work,” and Opera News noted that “the composer certainly hits all his marks.” Four octavos from Memento mori are available through Subito Music. The entire work is represented by European American Music, and the requiem is featured in Robert Chase’s book “Memento Mori: A Guide to Contemporary Memorial Music,” published by Scarecrow press.

James Adler

Photo by: Klaudia Winiewska

Audiophiles can enjoy Mr. Adler’s music on the premiere recording of Memento mori by the AmorArtis Chorale and Orchestra under the direction of Mr. Somary. Following the West Coast premiere, this disc, released worldwide by Albany Records, was the Number One uniquely selling CD in San Francisco on

Other recordings of his music include Metropolitan Opera mezzo-soprano Victoria Livengood, a soloist on the Albany recording, presenting the requiem’s Pie Jesu on her disc We Gather Together. Additionally, Nicholas Underhill’s CD Light and Sirius, features Mr. Adler’s 3 Piano Transitions, which Grammphone (January 2008) noted, “spins appealing variations on the venerable forms of passacaglia, prelude and toccata before immersing itself in spicy and ebullient Caribbean-influenced dances.”

Other compositions by Mr. Adler include Reflections upon a September morn with poetry by Walt Whitman; On the Rebound, premiered by the Gregg Smith Singers; the often-performed Carols of Splendour, which premiered at Carnegie Hall; It's Gotta Be America, commissioned and performed for the Centennial Celebration of the Statue of Liberty; and Canticle For Peace, written and performed for the opening of the 43rd session of the United Nations General Assembly.

Mr. Adler is the composer of Concerto in G for Piano and Orchestra, the children's Opera Herbie and Carnie: A Dinosaga, the Classic Rag-time Suite for Orchestra, numerous solo, chamber, and choral works, and the award-winning film score for The Hat Act.

Mr. Adler made his orchestral performing debut with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and has appeared in recital on the Orchestra's Allied Arts Piano Series. Other highlights include appearances on the Dame Myra Hess Memorial Concerts Series at the Chicago Cultural Center; featured soloist performances at Alice Tully Hall; and a special London orchestral performance at the Royal Albert Hall, broadcast by the BBC.

A native of Chicago, James Adler is a graduate of the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia. A member of the Fine Arts Department faculty at Saint Peter's College, where he has also served as choral director, he has adjudicated at national and international music competitions and is the recipient of an award from ASCAP for outstanding composition achievement each year since 1978. He has received grants from Meet The Composer and from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts, and he is a laureate in Who's Who in American Musicand theInternational Who's Who in Music.

We caught up with James Adler in New York.

iStudioi: What is it that inspires you to l perform music?

James Adler: As a performer, sharing the joy of discovery made before I ever step onto a concert stage. I try to communicate the composer's intentions, stylistically and with emotion. As a composer, expressing passion and intellect through my music and communicating with audiences.

iStudioi: How and when did you become interested in piano?

James Adler: At age 10, I heard my brother performing a J.S. Bach keyboard invention. He brought me to the piano and sat me in his lap, and I began to play that piece by imitation. I started taking piano lessons shortly after that.

iStudioi: Is there a particular style of music that you prefer?

James Adler: I enjoy it all, but my heart leans towards Romantic Period repertoire.

iStudioi: Tell us about your original compositions.

James Adler: I write for really diverse reasons. "Memento mori: An AIDS Requiem" is a large-scale work for men's chorus, soloists, and orchestra. Since its premiere in Atlanta in 1996, it has been performed throughout the world and recorded by AmorArtis for Albany Records.    On the other hand, I have composed a number of piano works which include "3 Piano Transitions," which has been recorded several times.

And I write for everything in between: while living in England in 1980, I composed "Piano Concerto in G: A Walk Through an English Garden," which premiered in New York.  I was commissioned to compose the choral work "It's Gotta’ Be America" for the Centennial Celebration of the Statue of Liberty, and "Canticle for Peace," which was written for the 43rd session of the United Nations General Assembly. I also wrote seasonal choral works, "A Winter Triptych" and "Carols of Splendour" The latter premiered at Carnegie Hall.

Theatrical and commercial works include the children's opera titled "Herbie and Carnie: A Dinosaga," "The Hat Act" film score, and "Butterfly Disco," a contemporary rendition of the Puccini classic.
I've also written many chamber works, including "Suite Moderne" and "A Suite for Strings," both for string orchestra. I really enjoy writing for combinations of voice and one or two instruments,  especially noting "Reflections Upon a September Morn," by Walt Whitman poetry, which I composed on March 11, 2002.

iStudioi: What do you envision for your future in music?

James Adler: I am working towards my next CD project, set for release in April 2010, a piano disc and NYC recital which will include a new composition of mine. Several choral projects, including an extended work, are also in my plans.

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