3(III=picc).3(III=ca).3(II=ebcl.III=bscl).2.contraforte(or cbsn) – 4331 – timp(=rototoms) – perc(3) (I:glsp,vib,bass bell,SD,susp.cym,clash.cym,hi-hat,wdbl,tamb,anvil,whip.II:ant.cym,crot,SD,susp.cym,clash.cym,hi-hat,tgl,whip,tamb,cast,c.bell,large.mark tree,tam-t.III:ant.cym,tgl,whip,susp.cym,BD,bass drum with mounted clash cymbals(mechanical),tam-t – harp – pno – strings


Score and parts in preparation

Programme Notes

Thomas Adès    The Exterminating Angel Symphony (2020)

I. Entrances
II. March
III. Berceuse
IV. Waltzes

Composed in 2020, this Symphony is an orchestral rendering of music from Adès’ third opera The Exterminating Angel. Based on Luis Buñuel’s classic surrealist movie from 1962, in which a collection of society characters find themselves inexplicably trapped together at a post-opera party, it premiered at the 2016 Salzburg Festival, and has since travelled to the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, New York’s Metropolitan Opera, and the Royal Danish Opera, Copenhagen.

In the Symphony’s opening movement, Entrances, the guests arrive for dinner; in an early sign that they are leaving "reality" behind, they arrive twice.  Then comes the ferocious and obsessive March that bridges the opera’s first two acts, the music for their first night under the spell of the Exterminating Angel. The third movement is a Berceuse which draws on some of the work’s most exquisite and memorable music: one of the yearning, melancholy duets between the doomed lovers Beatriz and Eduardo: Fold your body into mine / Hide yourself within its hand.

Adès describes composing Waltzes – the Symphony’s final and most extensive movement – as like ‘joining together the bits of a broken porcelain object’. Unlike the other movements, which draw on fairly complete passages from the opera, here the waltz fragments that surface throughout the score are brought together to create something wholly original. ‘What interests me about the waltz is the seductiveness of this music’ remarked Adès in an interview before the opera’s premiere. ‘I often feel that the waltzes by Johann Strauss are saying “why don’t you stay a little longer? Don’t worry about what’s going on outside". So in the context of this opera the waltz becomes very dangerous, potentially fatal.’

Faber Music

The Exterminating Angel Symphony

Musikverein (Vienna, Austria)

Thomas Adès, Kirill Gerstein, RSO Wien

The Exterminating Angel Symphony

de Doelen (Rotterdam, Netherlands)

Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra, Finnegan Downie Dear

Find Out More