"Like the poetry of “The Divine Comedy,” it seems to contain the entirety of life itself." New York Times
Thomas Adès’ ballet score Dante for received a critically acclaimed US premiere from Gustavo Dudamel and the Los Angeles Philharmonic at the end of April. Adès complete three-part score for orchestra, recorded and live chorus – which follows Dante’s pattern of Inferno, Purgatorio, and Paradiso in The Divine Comedy – was showcased at three concerts at Walt Disney Hall in Los Angeles.
Dudamel gave the world premiere of Inferno in may 2019; Dante was Commissioned by the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Gustavo Dudamel, the Royal Opera House for the Royal Ballet, and Wayne McGregor, with the support of the Lenore S. and Bernard A. Greenberg Fund.
“Put Dante in the pantheon of great ballet scores that stand alone — thrive, even — outside the pit and the proscenium”, wrote the New York Times, who praised “that is the strange magic of his music, which manages to feel at once fresh and familiar.” Such was the excitement of the ‘Thieves’ sequence of Inferno that the audience applauded mid-performance.
Paradiso received special praise, Joshua Barone describing “…a glassy upward spiral in constant motion. Even as it descends, it does so with a weightless shimmer”. Barone continued, “you wouldn’t think a composer could sustain a slow ascent for some 25 minutes, and the conceit appears to wear thin until its spell takes hold — a step outside time, cosmic and courting a hypnotic daze.”
The LA Times enthused “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…that doesn’t delight”, wrote critic Mark Swed. This is music, he added, “sourced by a sorcerer.”
The LA Times also praised Adès’ recent performances conducting the LA Phil as part of the Gen X Festival, where he conducted works by Anna Meredith, Francisco Coll, and his own 2021 piece for violin and orchestra Märchentänze. In the latter, Mark Swed wrote, “Adès put his own wondrously whimsical spin on old English dances…the solo violin is joined by an organized chaos of orchestral violins, mimicking individual birds swooping down to earth, as skylarks do, and then soaring away as Adès also does in Dante.”
Bachtrack noted Adès’ contribution to the artistic legacy of The Divine Comedy. “In the seven centuries since Dante’s death, great artists referring to the poem – from Liszt to Blake to Rodin – succeeded to capture this sense of quest and, at the same time, to include references to their own times and surroundings…Adès’ Dante is their 21st century equivalent. We are fortunate to be his contemporaries.”
Dudamel and Adès will conduct 19 performances of Dante at the Palais Garnier in Paris in May 2023. In February 2023 Adès conducts the London Philharmonic Orchestra in the Inferno Suite at the Royal Festival Hall.