Thomas Adès’ Concerto for Piano and Orchestra has recently seen performances from Vladimir Jurowski and the Berlin Radio Symphony alongside its champion Kirill Gerstein, with the pianist also joining Antonio Pappano for further performances of the 2018 work this autumn with the London Symphony Orchestra. In August and September Gerstein partnered with Jurowski for concerts at Schloss Grafenegg, Musikfest Berlin, and the BBC Proms; their performance from London is available to stream here.
Pappano, who previously conducted the concerto with his Orchestra dell'Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia in Rome in 2022, will perform the work with Gerstein at the Barbican on 12 October, as part of Pappano’s inaugural season as LSO Chief Conductor, as well as at the Konzerthaus Dortmund on 20 October. On 12 August the Concerto also received its Taiwanese premiere from Chiyan Wong and the Taipei Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Pascal Rophé.
Its three movements follow a mostly traditional pattern. The opening Allegramente contrasts a rhythmic first theme with a more expressive second subject, before a development section and cadenza. A glowering chorale from woodwinds and brass introduces the Andante gravemente¸ before the searching melody that ensues in the piano strives for an effusive climax. The Allegro giojoso finale begins with a call to arms, which precipitates a burlesque canon. The piano then takes up a tumbling melody “in the style of a ball bouncing down stairs”, as Adès puts it, which then winds down before falling off another precipice and tripping towards a joyful conclusion.
Gerstein, who recorded the work with the Boston Symphony and Adès, has performed the 22-minute piece over fifty times since its premiere, often in tandem with Adès conducting; they have presented the piece together with the Chicago Symphony, Concertgebouw, Leipzig Gewandhaus, Bavarian Radio, and Helsinki Philharmonic. This autumn Gerstein also performs Adès’ In Seven Days with Andris Nelsons and the Leipzig Gewandhaus on 14 and 15 September, launching a two-season focus on Adès.
…[a] work which engages with the standard form so beguilingly…nothing outstays its welcome, and the gift simply to entertain, with accomplished handling of a large orchestra as well as a distinctive piano part, is rare in contemporary music.
The Arts Desk (David Nice), 1 September 2023
[The concerto] is already on its way to becoming a cornerstone of the modern piano repertoire…The writing for piano is gleefully excessive, with shattering chords and vivid glissandi that elicit an unconscious grin to the listener.
Bachtrack (Dominic Lowe), 31 August 2023