Adès writes ‘Mazurkas’ for Emmanuel Ax

It is almost 14 years since Thomas Adès composed for his own instrument, the piano, but the beginning of 2010 has so far seen new piano repertoire from Adès in the form of two world premieres of solo piano works.  The first to be performed was Mazurkas lasting 6-9 minutes, championed by virtuoso pianist Emanuel Ax. 

The world premiere took place at Carnegie Hall in New York on 2 February 2010, followed by the UK premiere at the Barbican in London on 5 March, and in The Netherlands at the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam shortly after on 7 March 2010.


US Premiere
‘Contrasting three Chopin mazurkas, elegantly played, with the premiere of Three Mazurkas, Op. 27, by the British composer Thomas Adès was a great idea. Mr. Adès, an accomplished pianist, pays tribute to Chopin by writing modern-day, harmonically spiky, rhythmically fractured mazurkas that imaginatively span the keyboard. In the second, he evokes the practice of rubato (in which strict timing is toyed with) by having the left hand play a steady rhythmic figure while the right spins out a spiraling, trill-filled wash of notes.’
The New York Times (Anthony Tommasini), 12 February 2010

UK Premiere of Mazurkas
‘It is hard to imagine a mazurka conceived outside Chopin’s shadow, and Adès’s are manifestly within the stylistic remit, acknowledging the distinctive accentuation and ornamentation, and the four-bar phrasing. At least to begin with. Yet these “givens” start to deliquesce. Adès’s own distinctive metrical complexity infiltrates old certainties and puts the familiar form before distorting mirrors. The music is charming and alarming at the same time, as Adès often is. Ax presented these latter-day reflections on tradition with a devotion to context as well as to the notes themselves.’
The Sunday Times (Paul Driver), 14 March 2010

Mazurkas was co-commissioned by the Barbican Centre, Carnegie Hall, Los Angeles Philharmonic Association, San Francisco Symphony and Het Concertgebouw NV.