I can be brief. I'll admit I'm no expert when it comes to John Adams, but I have most of his commercially produced CDs and can tell you how I hear it.
This Common Tones in Simple Time (track 1) is a bit too matter of fact. It's not as atmospheric or intoxicating as is DeWaart/San Francisco on Electra Nonesuch. The recording quality here is a touch stark, and Nagano is too straightforward. Listening to it immediately after the DeWaart is very revealing of these qualities. DeWaart is definitely the one to have.
This Fast Machine (track 5) is too fast and much too frenetic. It sounds as if Nagano is about to lose all control and this Ride is about to fling itself off the tracks. Here, as in Common Tones, the close-up, rather stark recording does this orchestra (or composer) no favors. If only Nagano had simply let John Adams' score speak for itself without "helping" in the tempo department...sigh. It actually loses much of its rhythmic thrust and energy at this flippant speed, and instead is just a hectic scramble to the end. (It's a full minute faster than Michael Tilson Thomas's live San Francisco SACD; and I initially thought that one was too fast!) However, it must be said, this orchestra does its best to keep up with him and manages to play most of the notes. (The poor clarinetists...)
However, the highlight of this CD - by far - is the Harmonielehre symphony. It is a glorious reading and the recording is just a touch warmer and more relaxed, paying huge dividends in atmosphere. Nagano, too, relaxes and allows the music to breathe. He really has a thorough understanding of this piece, and commands an awesome sense of direction and purpose. And what a climax he builds to in the second movement. O my! And what a first trumpet player this orchestra possesses! Nagano reveals this piece to be Adams' masterpiece, just as many proclaim it to be. And it is simply magnificent here.
The recording, even in the symphony, however, is still a little close and can be too bright if your stereo system isn't optimal. However, there is enough spaciousness and warmth to offset it. On the plus side, the detail it reveals is fascinating. And it certainly provides maximum impact in that massive climax in track 3. However, be warned, it may very well overwhelm smaller speakers or an under-powered amplifier if the volume is set too high.