Powder Her Face: the orchestral suite

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After almost 22 years, and more than a dozen productions worldwide, Powder Her Face, Adès’s precocious and risqué treatment of the scandal surrounding Margaret, Duchess of Argyll, is already established as part of the repertoire.

Adès has returned to his riotous score repeatedly in recent years, beginning in 2007 with the 12-minute Dances from Powder Her Face for orchestra. Then, in 2010 Adès decided that the playful virtuosity of the music in its depiction of the Duchess’s grace and glamour would translate into a Concert Paraphrase for piano rather in the manner of Liszt or Busoni. This Paraphrase was itself reworked into a version for two pianos in 2015. Now comes an extended 30-minute orchestral Powder Her Face Suite, premiered by Sir Simon Rattle and the Berliner Philharmoniker in May.

 

Commissioned by Rattle as one of a string of new works to mark the end of his 16-year tenure with the orchestra, the Suite incorporates four newly-orchestrated sections of the opera, interpolated between new orchestrations of the three existing Dances from Powder Her Face, to make a new extended work.

 

The work now travels the world with an impressive schedule of 16 performances from the work’s co-commissioners: Philadephia Orchestra and Yannick Nézet-Séguin; the St Louis Symphony and David Robertson; the London Philharmonic under Adès himself; and the Danish National Symphony Orchestra under Juanjo Mena. 

 

REVIEWS

‘The Suite includes not just the swanky tango and distorted waltz, which evoke the decline of aristocratic order in full orchestral treatment, but also brooding atmospheric passages and solemn woodwind melodies. Rattle milked the pauses of the riotous Overture and revelled in the almost Mahlerian textures of the Ode… A welcome indulgence.’

The Financial Times (Rebecca Schmid), 16 June 2017

 

‘The orchestra clearly enjoyed the wild mixture. You could see the groove, swing, melody and kitsch: the soundworld of the 30s and 50s… A distorted image of modernity, with splintering motifs and diagonally squeezed phrases.’

Der Tagesspiegel (Christiane Peitz), 2 June 2017

 

The score of the Powder Her Face Suite, together with many other Adès works, can be viewed at the Faber Music Online Score Library.