On 27 August Anne-Sophie Mutter premieres Thomas Adès’ Air with the Lucerne Festival Contemporary Orchestra, conducted by the composer.
Air was commissioned by Roche as part of Roche Commissions for the Lucerne Festival and co-commissioned by Anne-Sophie Mutter, Carnegie Hall, and Boston Symphony Orchestra. Adès describes the 15-minute piece as “something shaped as a single arc rather than a concerto…The idea was more of a breath or a statement—We agreed it should be an extended aria.” The score makes use of transparent, diaphanous orchestral textures, opening with high strings and handbells. To add to the effect, the woodwinds are instructed to play with minimal or no vibrato throughout.
Air evokes the form of the baroque Chaconne or Passacaglia, albeit one that is turned on its head, as it proceeds from a high melody in the solo violin – “the whole thing hangs down from the high treble”, says Adès. Another key structural element is canon. As Adès puts it:
This is actually an enormous canon or a series of canons at the 12th. They rise and at the same time descend, so that with so with many modulations you end up arriving again at the point where you started, but transformed into something else. Anne-Sophie’s part is the freest agent within this matrix.
Anne-Sophie Mutter gives the US premiere of Air in April 2023 with the Boston Symphony Orchestra conducted by Andris Nelsons. It receives three performances at Symphony Hall in Boston before a concert at New York’s Carnegie Hall on 25 April.