"...giddyingly asymmetric writing..." Jessica Duchen

After a spate of Covid-related cancellations, Thomas Adès’ The Exterminating Angel Symphony recieved its US premiere on March 10 at Severance Hall, Cleveland, from the Cleveland Orchestra under the baton of Franz Welser-Möst.

The Exterminating Angel Symphony, 20 minutes in length, follows the action of the opera in four movements: the introduction of the guests, a ferocious march, and a sensuous ‘Berceuse’. The final movement, ‘Waltzes’, which Adès described as ‘joining together the bits of a broken porcelain object’, creates a wholly new piece from the ghostly dance fragments that appear throughout the opera.

The i newspaper (Jessica Duchen), 2016: “Thomas Adèsʼ transformation of music from his Buñuel-based opera The Exterminating Angel into a symphony gives it new life. It’s astoundingly original….the Angel represents, the composer says, “an absence of will, of purpose, of action” – a message for our times, translated into giddyingly asymmetric writing.”

Adès has previously adapted material from The Exterminating Angel into new forms. Lullabies from Act III, including when Beatriz and Eduardo languidly retreat to the closet to commit suicide, have been arranged by the composer into a paraphrase for solo piano, performed and recorded by Kirill Gerstein, three pieces for viola and piano by Lawrence Power, and, in 2021, Four Berceuses for clarinet, viola and piano.

The Cleveland Orchestra are amongst the work’s co-commissioners, which also included the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, Carnegie Hall, the Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra, Radio France, Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks, the Orquesta Nacional de España, and the Luzerner Sinfonieorchester. Upcoming performances will take place at the Isarphilharmonie on March 24 and 25, and Hamer Hall in Melbourne on August 25 and 27.

A full score is available to view online here