Thomas Adès at Carnegie Hall

Thomas Adès at Carnegie Hall
Thomas Adès was in the news headlines & on the homepage of the Carnegie Hall website, where he was presented to audiences in three different guises, as composer, conductor and pianist at New York City’s premiere concert venue.

On 19 March Adès played the piano in a chamber recital with violinist Anthony Marwood & cellist Steven Isserlis with whom he performed the US premiere of his work for cello and piano Lieux rétrouvés.  Critic Anthony Tommasini from the NY Times said ‘[Adès]…may be the most accomplished overall musician before the public today’ (full review below). 

On 24 March Adès conducted an ensemble concert presented by the Academy ACJW in a programme including a broad history of British and Irish music―from Purcell, right on up to Adès’s own Concerto Conciso. Lastly Adès made his Stern Auditorium/Perelman Stage recital debut as pianist on 27 March. He performed a diverse program of Janáček, Liszt, Prokofiev, Schubert, and Beethoven, along with the New York Premiere of his own Concert Paraphrase on Powder Her Face, after his acclaimed 1995 chamber opera.


19 March 2010 – Chamber Concert
‘Not many composers around right now — at least among those who are writing audacious operas and symphonic works for major international institutions — are also capable of playing the challenging piano part of Ravel’s Trio in A minor. The English composer Thomas Adès is, as he proved on Friday night at Zankel Hall in a chamber music program with two brilliant British colleagues: the violinist Anthony Marwood and the cellist Steven Isserlis.

This intriguing program found musical resonances among works by Janáček, Liszt, Poulenc, Ravel and Mr. Adès. Although several of the scores had difficult piano parts, most pianists would place the Ravel trio near the top of the list of the most technically challenging chamber works. It is not just the profusion of notes but also the awkwardness of the piano writing that makes it so difficult.
Many chamber players luxuriate in the glossy textures, slick brilliance and Impressionistic colorings of this 1914 piece. But Mr. Adès and his like-minded colleagues took a cooler, drier, more thematic and crisply rhythmic approach. From the first statement of the opening theme in the piano, Mr. Adès played with a blend of clarity and sensitivity that made the elusive music all the more mysterious. He voiced Ravel’s thick chords so that the strangeness of the harmonies came through.

When Mr. Marwood and Mr. Isserlis took up that theme, their sound was focused yet spectral and haunting. This refreshingly unvoluptuous take on the piece continued in the incisive, spiky account of the macabre, scherzolike second movement and the almost medieval austerity the players brought to the subdued and inexorably slow Passacaille. While the finale had the requisite whirlwind energy, the crunchy, incisive playing never allowed the music to sound flashy.

Mr. Marwood and Mr. Adès began the program with an engrossing account of Janáček’s Sonata for Violin and Piano, composed about the same time as the Ravel, an unconventional and defiantly episodic work full of fractured folklike melodies and out-of-focus harmonies. Mr. Isserlis and Mr. Adès gave a scintillating, unsentimental performance of Poulenc’s Sonata for Cello and Piano and searching accounts of grimly beautiful Liszt works, “Romance Oubliée” and “La Lugubre Gondola,” which show Liszt in his most harmonically radical vein.
The program’s centerpiece was the American premiere of Mr. Adès’s Lieux Retrouvés for cello and piano, composed last year. The four movements evoke, though only elliptically, the waters, the mountains, the fields and, finally, the city. But the purely musical elements of the work are what grabbed me: the rippling figures for piano and cello that spin out in crazed, cyclic riffs; the crystalline piano harmonies that sound as if wind were rustling the chimes in a pagoda; the feisty, industrialized propulsive bursts in the finale.

The audience responded with a prolonged ovation for this bold new piece. Mr. Adès, who will conduct a concert in Zankel Hall and play a solo piano recital in Carnegie Hall this week, may be the most accomplished overall musician before the public today.’
The New York Times (Anthony Tommasini), 21 March 2010
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24 March 2010 – Ensemble Concert
‘The program opened with Mr. Adès’s evocative and refined Origin of the Harp (1994), for clarinets, violas, cellos and percussion, which takes its title from an illustration by the 19th-century Irish artist Daniel Maclise. The painting depicts the moment before a lovesick girl is transformed into a harp. A haunting melody in the clarinet and sighing motifs in the strings convey the anguish of the maiden grieving her faithless lover, with imaginative use of percussion, including a rain stick, adding drama and textural nuance.
The evening concluded with Mr. Adès’s 10-minute Concerto Conciso (1998), featuring his trademark high sonorities in the brasses and strings and a bluesy segment for clarinet and saxophone.’
The New York Times (Vivien Schweitzer), 25 March 2010
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