Adès: 'In Seven Days' New York premiere

Thomas Adès participated as pianist in the New York premiere of his piano concerto In Seven Days on 6 January with the New York Philharmonic, conducted by Alan Gilbert.  This was the first time the composer has taken the role of pianist, having conducted the work in all previous performances.

Press comments:
‘Word must be getting around that when Alan Gilbert presents one of his ambitious contemporary-music projects at the New York Philharmonic, these programs are not to be missed. So it was on Thursday night when Mr. Gilbert conducted the New York premiere of the British composer Thomas Adès’s In Seven Days.
This riveting, restless and kaleidoscopically colorful 30-minute orchestra piece, written in 2008, incorporates projected videos by Tal Rosner to illustrate the Genesis story through music and imagery.
In Seven Days was the major draw, and the turnout supports Mr. Gilbert’s conviction that if he and his players present challenging contemporary pieces that they really believe in, that curious audiences will come.
The work is structured in seven connected sections that depict the seven days of creation in Genesis. The opening section, “Chaos — Light — Darkness,” the longest (about one-third of the score), begins with subdued, skittish triplet figures in the strings that never settle into clear, rooted harmonies. The chaos evoked is not forbidding, just formless, yet alive, waiting to become something. The activity picks up, and the density thickens, as other instruments join in, until the skittish music coalesces into counterpoint. An insistent solo flute breaks through as if to impose some order on the bustling musical strands.
…the piece, structured as an elaborate theme and variations, is terrific. As the creation saga unfolds, the music is at once reverent and playful. Galumphing basses and low brass evoke the creatures of the land, while twittering flutes and crazed piccolo announce the creatures of the sky. Long episodes evolve in arcs of brilliant piano writing where restless, filigreed, spiraling figures cascade down the keyboard.
Even when the music heaves on the surface, the inner textures and voices are a riot of activity.  It has long been hard to pigeonhole Mr. Adès’s musical language, and so it was with this piece. For music of such audacious modernism, the overall sound was wondrously strange and somehow elemental. Hints of ancient modal harmony combine with jazzy chords and fractured rhythms. In the final section, “Contemplation,” the theme is presented straightforwardly as the music slowly disperses into silence, to suggest touchingly that the work of creation is done.  Now what?
Under Mr. Gilbert’s leadership the Philharmonic has become a crack contemporary-music ensemble. The performance was assured and exhilarating.
The New York Times (Anthony Tommasini), 7 January 2011

‘Swept up from the tohu-bohu of unruly waves, the audience is buffeted by the composer’s rich reverberations and the videographer’s eye-popping visuals, uncertain whether the aural propels the visual or vice versa. And therein lies the piece’s power, and the audience’s uncanny feeling of participating in the act of creation.
Thomas Adès (born in 1971) is the celebrated English composer whose opera, “The Tempest,” was commissioned by London’s Covent Garden and premiered there in 2004.  I saw it then and was stunned that someone so young could manage something so magical and successful.
Aural energies pulsate with visual ones — intensities of sound reflected by intensities of light (or is it vice versa?). Images that seem to sweep across every possible formulation of modern art’s many modes, playing with kaleidoscopic sensations.  The music—and it’s definitely music! —manages to convey much of the same, with tonalities that shift in and out of a full range of post-Wagnerian sounds, never resting long enough to let go of what turns out to be an electrifying and suggestive ride.’
The Jewish Daily Forward (Tom L. Freudenheim), 7 January 2011