On 14 March Simon Rattle and the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra premiere Thomas Adès’ Aquifer at the Herkulessaal in Munich. Orchestra and conductor then give the Austrian debut of the 17-minute work with the BRSO at the Musikverein on 16 March; the US premiere, at Carnegie Hall, follows on 3 May. This summer Rattle and the orchestra will present the work at the Grafenegg Festival on 30 August.

Aquifer was commissioned by the Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks for the inaugural season of Chief Conductor Sir Simon Rattle with support from Carnegie Hall and the Gesellschafft der Musikfreunde in Wien.

The title refers to a geological structure which can transmit water. It is cast in one movement built from seven sections. It begins by welling up from the deepest notes, before the theme is presented first by the flutes, building to three statements that use more and more of the orchestra. After a breakdown, the theme returns in a slower second section, albeit with more unstable rhythms and harmony; the third section is built on a crawling chromatic bass line. It accelerates into the fast-flowing fourth section, from which emerges a mysterious stillness. The fifth section builds towards a return of the opening material, lapsing then – as before – into a darker slow section with a dragging character. The fast-flowing music breaks through again, culminating in an ecstatic coda.

Simon Rattle has championed Adès’ music for over a quarter of a century. In 1997 he commissioned Asyla – which would subsequently win the Grawemeyer prize – for the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra  and would subsequently conduct the work internationally over 35 times, including at his 2002 inaugural concert with the Berlin Philharmonic, with whom he later premiered Tevot in 2007. In 2020 Rattle conducted the world premiere of Adès’ Dawn with the London Symphony Orchestra at the BBC Proms.