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"I've never stopped feeling grateful that I live in this generation rather than in one just before me, or just before that. That was a really hard time because I think there was a slight fear of the marketplace...there was a distrust of popularity...(but) I think you can be uncompromising and still reach peoples' hearts. Why not? You go that extra inch, make that extra effort." (Thomas Adès)
In a major addition to EMI Classics’ ongoing Thomas Adès catalogue, this new disc presents four recent orchestral compositions recorded live in concert, all available on CD for the first time. Tevot, is performed by its dedicatees, the Berliner Philharmoniker and Simon Rattle. The Violin Concerto ‘Concentric Paths’ and Three Studies from Couperin are performed by the Chamber Orchestra of Europe conducted by Adès with the concerto’s dedicatee Anthony Marwood as soloist. The Overture, Waltz and Finale from Powder Her Face is a BBC Recording, performed by the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain conducted by Paul Daniel.
Tevot (2007) was commissioned by the Berliner Philharmoniker and Carnegie Hall. In Hebrew, Tevot means “arks”, as in the Ark of the Covenant or Noah’s Ark. It can also mean box or vessel, like the cradle in which the baby Moses was placed among the reeds. Another meaning of Tevot is the bars in a piece of music. In an interview in The Guardian at the time of Tevot’s premiere (and this recording), Adès said, “I liked the idea that the bars of the music were carrying the notes as a sort of family through the piece. And they do, because without bars, you’d have musical chaos. But I was thinking about the ark, the vessel, in the piece as the earth. The earth would be a spaceship, a ship that carries us – and several other species! – through the chaos of space in safety. It sounds a bit colossal, but it’s the idea of the ship of the world.”
Tevot is scored for the largest orchestra that Adès has ever composed for. “I was thinking,” he says, “writing for the Berlin Phil, that what you have is one huge organism made up of hundreds of brilliant individual players. They move together; they play with their bodies, especially in the case of the horn section. They are like paragliders, or people who have just jumped off a cliff wearing a bit of rope. They are very fearless, and they have to be. Watching the orchestra play Tevot feels a bit like watching people on a boat, as the music is being thrown from one side of the orchestra and smashing into the other side, almost as if it is going to capsize – but I don’t think it does.“ This may well be thanks to Simon Rattle who “has an almost supernatural ability to know what my music is and how to produce it in the orchestra.”
The Violin Concerto ‘Concentric Paths’ (2005), was commissioned by the Berliner Festspiele and the Los Angeles Philharmonic. It is dedicated to Anthony Marwood and scored for a Beethoven-scale orchestra plus two percussionists. The first and last movements (Rings and Rounds) employ harmonic circling while the central slow movement (Paths) is in the form of a chaconne and conveys a sense of lament and consolation. The Times reviewer wrote of the concert performance recorded here, “Anthony Marwood gave an exuberantly committed performance of a work which is surely set to be a much sought after new classic of the violin repertoire.” Concentric Paths, released digitally in 2007, appears here for the first time on CD.
Three Studies from Couperin (2006) was commissioned by the Basel Chamber Orchestra. Adès has long been fascinated by the compositions of the 18th Century French composer François Couperin. In this work Adès adapted three of Couperin’s keyboard works, colouring them with contemporary instruments and ideas. The studies Les Amusemens, Les Tours de passe-passe and L’Âme-en-peine are scored for two string ensembles with added woodwinds, brass and a percussionist with bass marimba, two small metal bars, bass drum, five roto-toms and three timpani to hand.
Overture, Waltz and Finale from Powder Her Face (2007): Powder Her Face began life as a chamber opera in 1995 about the colourful life of the Duchess of Argyll. It has had more than 30 international productions since then. This re-orchestration “transforms the original’s sparse textures into a pointillistic phantasmagoria, its exuberance finally collapsing into shards of disillusionment. It is a fine showpiece.” (The Guardian)
Upcoming performances of the works featured on this album in the first half of 2010 include Tevot in Utrecht in January, Three Studies from Couperin in Milwaukee in February, Overture, Waltz and Finale from Powder Her Face in Amsterdam in March and both the Powder Her Face Suite and the Violin Concerto in Los Angeles in April.
Thomas Adès was born in 1971 and studied at King’s College Cambridge. On the strength of his Chamber Symphony, composed at the age of 19, Faber Music signed him up. Further milestones have included Living Toys (1994), commissioned by the London Sinfonietta; Powder Her Face (1995), commissioned by Almeida Opera for the Cheltenham Festival; Asyla (1997), commissioned by the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra and Simon Rattle; America: A Prophecy, composed in 1999 for the New York Philharmonic Orchestra as one of its “messages for the millennium”; the Piano Quintet of 2000 for the composer and the Arditti Quartet; Brahms (2002), a setting for baritone and orchestra of a poem by Alfred Brendel; The Tempest (2004), a full-scale opera commissioned by the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden; and the Violin Concerto (2005), which was premiered at the Berliner Festspiele and the BBC Proms..
Thomas Adès works draw inspiration from such diverse idioms as 1930s songs, tango music and drum & bass. His works have been – and continue to be - performed by acclaimed musicians and ensembles worldwide. He is the winner of numerous awards and prizes, among them the Grawemeyer Award, the largest international prize for composition. From 1999 to 2008, he served as Artistic Director of the Aldeburgh International Festival.
In 2007, Adès was Featured Composer at the Festival Présences in Paris, during which 23 of his works were performed in one month; London’s Barbican Centre featured Tevot and 11 other of Adès’s works in a festival (Traced Overhead) celebrating his music and influences. New York’s Carnegie Hall appointed Thomas Adès to its Richard and Barbara Debs Composer’s Chair for the 2007-2008 season, in which capacity he was featured as composer, conductor and pianist in numerous concerts, recitals and events throughout the season.
More recently, Adès collaborated with video artist Tal Rosner on a commission from the Los Angeles Philharmonic and London’s Southbank Centre for a piano concerto with moving image. In Seven Days was given its world premiere in April 2008 by Nicolas Hodges, the London Sinfonietta and Adès at the Royal Festival Hall, London and was subsequently performed in Los Angeles and Amsterdam. The Los Angeles performance was the highlight of an Adès mini-residency presented by the Los Angeles Philharmonic.
Thomas Adès has an exclusive contract, as composer, pianist and conductor, with EMI Classics, for whom he has recorded works by Janácek, Schubert, Kurtág, Castiglione, Stravinsky, Grieg and Busoni, as well as almost all of his own music.
Violin Concerto: Rings
Violin Concerto: Paths
Violin Concerto: Rounds
Three Studies from Couperin: Les Amusemens
Three Studies from Couperin: Les Tours de passe-passe
Three Studies from Couperin: L'Âme-en-peine
Dances from Powder Her Face: Overture
Dances from Powder Her Face: Waltz
Dances from Powder Her Face: Finale
20th February 2010
“Pride of place among these live performances of Adès’s recent music goes to Tevot, a magnificent orchestral journey through chaos to consolation, exultantly delivered...The Violin Concerto, dominated by circling patterns and Anthony Marwood’s expressive violin, is almost as powerful.”
28th February 2010
“The louche and sexy suite from Powder Her Face [is] excellently captured by the National Youth Orchestra...and, in the violin concerto, Anthony Marwood is an ideal soloist: sensitive, wistful and powerfully melancholy.”
“Marwood is eloquence itself and Adès secures disciplined playing from the COE...Finally, the NYO gives its all in a suite from Adès 's first opera Powder Her Face...A fine calling-card for this rare masterpiece among recent English opera, it rounds off a highly thought-provoking disc.”
11th March 2010
“What emerges is a portrait of a composer who is often at his most innovative when engaging in a forceful dialogue with tradition...The Berlin Philharmonic and Simon Rattle are very grand in Tevot...The NYO under Paul Daniel, meanwhile, make a very classy job of Powder Her Face.”
The Independent on Sunday
14th March 2010
“Anthony Marwood's shining tone casts a spell in violin concerto Concentric Paths. The Berliner Philharmoniker lend dazzle to Tevot”
“That sweet-toned, sensitive violinist Anthony Marwood reveals an unexpected heroic streak, throwing off Adès's tremendous vertiginous runs with immense authority...three Couperin pieces [are] revealed in all their tender, dusky mystery by the Chamber Orchestra of Europe.”
8th March 2010
“Thomas Adès may not be the most prolific composer of his generation, but he is surely the most consistent and compelling, evidence of which comes in these live recordings of four works...Marwood etches an expressive melancholia into demanding solo violin lines that sear themselves into bright relief against the constant turbulence of a storm-grey, lighting-scarred mass.”
Click on any of the works listed above for alternative recordings.