The world premiere recording of Thomas Adès’ Dante from Gustavo Dudamel and the Los Angeles Philharmonic won the Grammy Award for Best Orchestral Performance at the 66th Annual Grammy Awards in February.

Recorded live at Walt Disney Concert Hall and released through Nonesuch, Dante is a 90-minute ballet score in three parts inspired by Dante Alighieri’s Divine Comedy. It debuted as part of The Dante Project at the Royal Opera House in 2021, choreographed by Wayne McGregor and designed by Tacita Dean. It follows The Divine Comedy’s journey into hell (Inferno), across the sea of purgatory and up mountainous slopes (Purgatorio), and finally into the heavens (Paradiso). Adès’ kaleidoscopic music draws on Liszt, Syrian-Jewish cantor music, and in its final part, Gustave Doré’s engravings for Dante’s poem.

The Dante Project received its French premiere in April and May 2023 at the Palais Garnier from the Opéra national de Paris, conducted by the composer and Courtney Lewis; its Danish debut followed in November at the Royal Danish Ballet in Copenhagen conducted by Robert Houssart, proceeded in turn by the first revival of the piece from The Royal Ballet at Covent Garden, conducted by Jonathan Lo. 

Dante has also been nominated for the BBC Music Magazine Orchestral Award this year. The Dante Project has previously been lauded by the South Bank Sky Arts Awards and the Critics’ Circle.

Its first part Inferno debuted in Los Angeles in 2019 as part of an Adès dance spectacular created in collaboration with Wayne McGregor and The Royal Ballet. The programme included McGregor’s Outlier – his 2010 work choreographing Adès’ Violin Concerto (2005) for the New York City Ballet. The performance also saw Company Wayne McGregor present a new choreography of Adès’ In Seven Days, partly developed using AI technology, titled Living Archive, and taking its cue from the Creation story that shapes Adès’ 2008 work for piano and orchestra.

Outlier appeared in 2014’s See the Music, Hear the Dance at Sadler’s Wells, alongside stagings of Adès’ music from Crystal Pite, Karole Armitage, and Alexander Whitley. Pite’s Polaris was a predatory, insectoid realisation of the eponymous ‘voyage for orchestra’ (2010); she previously choreographed Robert Lepage’s production of The Tempest for the Metropolitan Opera in 2010. Polaris subsequently appeared at the White Light Festival in 2015.

Whitley’s The Grit in the Oyster for three dancers, and created for Sadler’s Wells, choreographed Adès’ 2001 Piano Quintet, in a playful study of repetition and change that exploring the sonata form that structures the 20-minute work.  Armitage choreographed Adès’ Life Story (1993), a setting of Tennessee Williams’ blacky-comic words, for two dancers joined by soprano Claire Booth and Adès on the piano, reprising a 1999 work created for NYCB.


… revelling in the composer’s lurid musical imagination, bursting with colour and wit and incident, and hellish visions of the underworld. Cinematic in its breadth and ambition.

BBC Radio 3, Record Review, 22 April 2023

Released from the confines of a theatre pit, Adès’s score becomes an orchestral spectacular, captured on the wing in live performances and splendidly recorded.

Financial Times (Richard Fairman), 20 April 2023

[Dante], in its debut recording by the Los Angeles Philharmonic with conductor Gustavo Dudamel, ranks among the most fantastical and kaleidoscopic orchestral works of our time.

NPR (Tom Huizenga), 21 April 2023

In any new shortlist of great ballet scores by Tchaikovsky, Stravinsky, Bartók, Ravel, Prokofiev, Britten, and Bernstein, Dante must newly be included for its musical invention alone. There is not a second in its 88 minutes that doesn’t delight. All of it is unexpected and wanted.

LA Times (Mark Swed) 4 May 2022

A dizzying homage to Liszt, synagogue music, and the enchantingly upward infinity of the cosmos. Conceived as a ballet score, [Dante] belongs alongside the great dance music of Stravinsky and Tchaikovsky that thrives on the concert stage.

New York Times, ‘Best Classical Performances of 2022’, 1 December 2022

Adès takes this legacy and develops it further; in the opening ‘Inferno’, the aggressive piano part in ‘The Suicides’ is virtuosic and harrowing; the rumbustious ‘The Thieves’ canters along mischievously…Adès peels away some of the orchestral layers to reveal recorded voices from the congregation at the Great Ades Synagogue in Jerusalem, whose prayers imaginatively represent the lost souls in purgatory. These are embellished with textural colour that brightens with ‘The Earthly Paradise’; a sinewy, sparkling melodic thread hints at the later ascending theme.

BBC Music Magazine (Claire Jackson), 16 May 2023