The world premiere recording of Thomas Adès’ Dante from Gustavo Dudamel and the Los Angeles Philharmonic won the Grammy Award for Best Orchestral Performance on 4 February at the 66th Annual Grammy Awards.

Recorded live at Walt Disney Concert Hall in April 2022 during performances conducted by Dudamel and released through Nonesuch, Dante is a 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.

Dante has also been nominated for the BBC Music Magazine Orchestral Award this year – click here to vote for Dante. It has previously been lauded by the South Bank Sky Arts Awards and the Critics’ Circle.

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, closely followed by the first revival by The Royal Ballet at Covent Garden, conducted by Jonathan Lo. 

The three parts that make up Adès’ ballet score have received numerous performances as standalone concert works. In March 2023 Paradiso was performed by the Boston Symphony Orchestra and Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia, with the composer conducting, alongside the 18½-minute Inferno Suite. The first part of the ballet has also been performed complete by the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra in 2021, with Adès conducting; in March 2024 the composer returns to Helsinki to conduct Purgatorio and Paradiso alongside Sibelius' Symphony No.4.

… 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