Thomas Adès has won critical plaudits for his recent concerts conducting the Vienna Philharmonic at the Musikverein, in a programme of music by Alban Berg, Maurice Ravel, and Totentanz, Adès’ 2013 piece for baritone, mezzo-soprano and orchestra. His performances in Vienna were part of the subscription series at the Musikverein, and followed by performances in Budapest and at the Wiener Konzerthaus.
Another critic described Adès’ conducting as “overwhelming”, and as an “unsettling painter of sounds”; Der Standard praised the way Adès mobilised “rhythmic elasticity” in the orchestra in Ravel’s La Valse. “Through a mix of piercing gestures in the upper register, pulsing textures and intimate moments (harp, double bass) Adès has created an effective scene”, commented Der Standard of Totentanz. Baritone Mark Stone was in “strong, expressive voice”, and mezzo Christianne Stotijn “lent dying its intensity” (News); the Wiener Zeitung praised the “excellent diction” in their delivery of the German text. The same review noted sumptuous applause and praise for Adès at the end of the concert. “The collaboration between Adès and the Vienna Philharmonic”, another wrote, “has potential for the future.”
Adès joins an illustrious list of composer-conductors who have worked with the Vienna Philharmonic, including Pierre Boulez, Leonard Bernstein, Richard Strauss, and Gustav Mahler. In an interview with Die Presse, Adès said of the Vienna Philharmonic that “I admired the sound that the orchestra got out of my music, an understanding of my tonal language was immediately noticeable….You heard the meaning of the phrases, understood what they were saying.”