Thomas ADÈS (b. 1971)
Adès: Anthology
CD 1: Powder Her Face - concert paraphrase (2009) [17:02]; Mazurkas [7:45]; Arcadiana (1994) [19:22]; Piano Quintet (2000) [19:59]
CD 2: Chamber Symphony (1990) [14:19]; Living Toys (19993) [19:02]; America - A Prophecy (1999) [15:35]; These Premises Are Alarmed (1996) [3:56]; Violin Concerto - Concentric Paths (2007) [20:08]
Thomas Adès (piano) (Powder, Mazurkas); Endellion Quartet (Arcadiana) Arditti Quartet, Thomas Adès (Piano 5tet); Birmingham Contemporary Music Group/Thomas Adès (Chamber Symphony); London Sinfonietta/Markus Stenz (Toys); Susan Bickley (sop), CBSO and Chorus/Thomas Adès (America; These Premises); Anthony Marwood (violin), Chamber Orchestra of Europe/Thomas Adès
rec. 19 Apr 2011, Henry Wood Hall (Powder, Mazurkas); 14 Mar 1997, No 1 Studio Abbey Road (Arcadiana); 3-4 Apr 2002, Snape Maltings (Quintet); 25-26 Oct 1998, CBSO Centre, Birmingham (Chamber); 10 May 1995, All Saints Church, Petersham, Surrey (Living Toys); 28 Mar 2002, Symphony Hall, Birmingham (America); 20 Nov 1998, Butterworth Hall, Warwick Arts Centre (These Premises), Barbican Hall, 22 Apr 2007 (Concerto)
EMI CLASSICS 50999 0 88560 2 9 [64:18 + 73:19]


EMI Classics have stood steadfastly beside Adès as the following listing of their discs serves to confirm:-

Powder Her Face - full opera 50999 0 27170 2 9 2 CDs
The Tempest - full opera 50999 6 95234 2 7 2 CDs
Tevot Violin Concerto 50999 4 57813 2 2
Asyla 07243 5 56818 2 9

EMI and Adès continue their alliance with this ingathered - and to some degree recycled - anthology of his music for piano solo, chamber ensemble and orchestra.

The Lisztian connotations of the Powder Her Face concert paraphrase are firmly in place and evidenced by what we hear. This is Liszt in collision with Ravel, Gershwin and even with Nancarrow (try tr. 4). The surreal Mazurkas proceed as if stepping dream-like along a dissonant moonlit path. The reference points are Szymanowski and Schoenberg. The very beautiful and delicate Arcadiana for string quartet is in seven little movements of which L’Embarquement is a captivating bluesy example. The music moves in a tracery without friction charting the regions between sleep and waking. The three movement Piano Quintet is darker than the other works on CD 1 but the music is still very much a matter of lissom filigree and shimmering iridescence – liberated bubbles floating de profundis to the surface.

CD 2 takes us to Adès and the orchestra. It launches with the three movement Chamber Symphony. The music is still a thing of fragments but now the mood is metropolitan jazz loneliness, melancholia, dissonance and unrepentant fracturing of lines. Living Toys takes us on an odyssey through grown-up images of a child’s free-ranging imagination. It seems to draw inspiration from the Stravinsky of Mavra juxtaposed with Ravel’s Ma Mère l’Oye. This fantasy garden is a place of deathly perils and enchantments. America - A Prophecy is scarcely less strange – a chattering and violently disorientating setting. Susan Bickley sings a part that is both janglingly unnerving, otherworldly and intensely beautiful (tr. 14 1:05). Its sound takes Bickley into counter-tenor territory. The words are from apocalyptic Mayan texts. These Premises Are Alarmed is a concert-flourish for the opening of the Bridgewater Hall in Manchester in 1996. Uncompromisingly delicate textures swerve, slither, skid and sidle through the orchestral fabric. It’s one of his most avant-garde pieces with touches of Maderna and Berio. The Violin Concerto - Concentric Paths is saturated in pent-up intensity with both soloist and orchestra in fantastic travail. One thinks of an updated Szymanowski and a modernised Delius when reflecting on this work’s luxuriance and unremitting extruded lyricism. As in America there are also moments that are surely indebted to the minimalists. This must now be known as his First Violin Concerto. Marwood gave the premiere.

Tom Service's essay and the interview with the composer – intrinsically helpful, by the way - give no dates for these works. A pity. The sung text for America is not reproduced.

This seems to be a good introduction to Adès’ music.

Rob Barnett

A good introduction to Adès’ music.