Aureole etc.

Golden Age singers

Nimbus on-line

Faure songs
Charlotte de Rothschild (soprano);

  Founder: Len Mullenger
Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

Thomas ADÈS (born 1971)
Living Toys, Op. 9a. Arcadiana, Op. 12b. Sonata da caccia, Op. 11c. The Origin of the Harp, Op. 13d. Gefriolsae me, Op. 3be.

cMichael Niesseman (baroque oboe); cAndrew Clark (horn); bEndellion String Quartet; eChoir of King’s College, Cambridge/Stephen Cleobury; dinstrumental ensemble/ Thomas Adès (piano/charpsichord); aLondon Sinfonietta/Marcus Stenz.
Recorded aAll Saints’ Church, Petersham in May 1995, bcAbbey Road Studios in May 1997, dAll Hallows Church, Gospel Oak, London in January 1997, eKing’s College Chapel in January 1997. [DDD]
EMI CDZ5 72271-2 [64.21]

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The exuberance of imagination (and fiendishly difficult writing) noted on the disc, ‘Life Story,’ CDZ5 69699-2 is continued on the present offering. The five pieces make for a well-contrasted programme presented by some of the finest artists active in the UK at the moment.

Appropriately, Living Toys is performed by the London Sinfonietta, a group that positively thrives on challenge. It was written in 1993 for this very group. The idea that generated it came from an anonymous Spanish source, which talks of a child’s dreams, and how these dreams make the adults who hear them realise ‘that their lives were less substantial than the dreams that surrounded [the child] like toys’. Adès takes the listener to a charged, somewhat dark place with his music, characteristic registral extremes vying with sonorities almost beyond the reach of the forces employed.

Arcadiana, (Adès’ first string quartet) provides the perfect textural contrast. It was written in 1994 for the Endellion String Quartet, who perform it here. It has a wide, almost virtuoso, frame of reference, taking in Papageno’s silver bells, the figuration of Schubert’s ‘Auf dem Wasser zu singen’ and a homage to ‘Nimrod’ in tender, Elgarian delicacy. The final, still evocation of ‘Lethe’ is an effective, emotive way to close the piece.

Adès has stated that, ‘My ideal day would be staying at home and playing the harpsichord works of Couperin – new inspiration on every page’. Perhaps that is what Adès aspires to himself, and the result, Sonata da caccia (1994), is a fascinating take on older forms. The first movement, ‘Gravement’, is disembodied, like a modern ghost. There are many moments that may easily be described as ‘sweet’, not a word often used in reference to Adès and a reflection of the affectionate nature of this tribute. The performance is superb. Perhaps, if forced to select one of the musicians for special praise, it would be Michael Niesemann’s superbly articulated baroque oboe. It makes the perfect foil to The Origin of the Harp (1994), a dark, dramatic chamber tone-poem for trios of clarinets, violas and cellos with percussion.

Gefriolsae Me, which closes the disc, is a slow-moving anthem written for King’s College Choir in 1990. It takes its text from Psalm 51 (‘Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, o God, thou God of my salvation’). It is predominantly dark and makes a haunting, doubting conclusion to a thought-provoking disc. Adès’ music repays repeated listening, and performances like this give one the perfect opportunity to give this music the consideration it is due.


Colin Clarke

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