On 27 March the Danish String Quartet and Johannes Rostamo premiered Wreath for Franz Schubert at the Royal Danish Conservatory of Music. Further performances of Adès’ new string quintet included its US premiere at the University of California Santa Barbara on 10 April, its Canadian premiere at Vancouver Playhouse on 14 April, and its New York debut at Carnegie Hall on 18 April. It will appear at the Tanglewood Festival on 1 August and makes its Belgian debut at Flagey on 11 November.

Watch the world premiere performance of Wreath here. Wreath was commissioned as part of the Danish String Quartet’s ‘Doppelgänger’ series, in which composers are invited to create a companion work to music by Schubert – in this case the C major String Quintet (1828).

Adès writes of the piece, cast in one movement,

The central string trio of violin, viola and cello play arco throughout, a gradually unfolding "lifespan" of entwined "blooms". The outer violin and cello outline them in pizzicato. The players are loosely co-ordinated, but within specific boundaries, so that within certain limits no two performances would be the same, and the duration is flexible: between fifteen and thirty minutes, depending on the players, or maybe the weather.

The inescapable relation to Schubert's double-cello quintet will be clear, especially to its slow movement…I was fascinated over again by the rôle of the second cello - at once lead singer, commentator and umpire.

The work was praised by critics on both sides of the Atlantic:

Adès, particularly in the past decade, seems to have flung open the gates of heaven, unleashing forces that overwhelm and awe in their immensity…Often soft, ending on an extreme and mostly symbolic “pianississississimo,” the music takes on a perfumed haze…It is gorgeous, more the Adès of “Paradiso” than the grandly rollicking Inferno.

The New York Times (Joshua Barone) 19 April 2024

“Wreath”…adopts an unhurried, almost static rhetorical mode that draws from the shimmering stillness of Schubert’s slow movement…The result is…blissed-out contemplation, in which slow harmonic shifts are adorned with delicate, whispery filigree…the patterning and structural integrity of Adès’ previous work are everywhere in evidence…beneath it all runs an almost subterranean harmonic progression that empties out — like a river coming at last to the sea — to an expansive, beatific C major, the final nod to Schubert…An innovative new score.

San Francisco Chronicle (Joshua Kosman) 14 April 2024

…unfolding seamlessly and with devastating beauty…While the swaying rhythms of Wreath might not change much from measure to measure, the harmonies shift constantly and hypnotically…Wreath achieves an archaic sweetness as its patterns shift slowly and as the bowed violin sings a ruminative passage in its upper range. 

San Francisco Classical Voice (Lisa Hirsch) 16 April 2024

…music that circled in a loop…fragmented, yet sensitive – like a shattered memory…Occasionally there was a flash of intensity, but the core of the work was calm reflection…one sensed a large, poetic architecture, a kind of multidimensional complexity unfolded by a composer who is rightly known for his virtuoso writing.

Klassik (Sune Anderberg) 28 March 2024 *****

Adès' music created an intensely melancholic space…phrases were long and flowing, like Schubert’s…the whole time it was beautiful…a delicate memorial.

Information (Camilla Marie Dahlgreen) 4 April 2024

Wreath was written to a commission led by the Danish String Quartet (supported by The Augustinus Foundation) with co-commissioners UC Santa Barbara Arts & Lectures, Cal Performances, Vancouver Recital Society, Carnegie Hall, Flagey, and Muziekgebouw aan ' t IJ. The Danish String Quartet will also perform Adès’ 2010 string quartet The Four Quarters at the Boulez Saal on 14 May and on 27 July at the Aspen Music Festival this summer.

Schubert has been a pervasive presence in Adès’ musical career. His 2005 Piano Quintet was recorded alongside Schubert’s ‘Trout’; the third movement of his first string quartet Arcadiana (1994) is named for and takes its figuration from one of Schubert’s best-known songs; as a pianist he has given acclaimed performances of Winterreise with tenor Ian Bostridge.

Writing in the April 2024 edition of BBC Music Magazine, Adès recalled that Schubert had been part of his most formative musical experiences: “Schubert’s ‘Trout’ quintet merged with the patterns of light on water reflected on a ceiling. I was kept quiet(ish) on long car journeys by tapes of his songs and of the Octet…his sounds extended this margining into emotional paradoxes…this feeling of music and life merged into one was my main experienced of the world. The mystery of his Octet is still how it can be tender and intimate, even domestic, and at the same time cosmically vast.”