On 30 May Thomas Adès was joined by Anne-Sophie Mutter for the UK premiere of Air – Homage to Sibelius (2021-22) with the London Symphony Orchestra at the Barbican. The previous week, on 17 May, the violinist gave the German premiere of the 15-minute work with the Leipzig Gewandhaus and Andris Nelsons – part of Adès’ ongoing two-season artistic residency with the orchestra.

Adès describes the genesis of Air hereincluding excerpts from its world premiere, with Anne-Sophie Mutter discussing her involvement in the work's creation hereAir is an inverted chaconne, led by the suspended violin line. Adès’ described his use of the form in an interview with Thomas May last year:

I have united two things in this new piece as regards the passacaglia or chaconne model. One is quite a Baroque idea of the passacaglia at the beginning of a sort that Henry Purcell might possibly have done, although the idea is turned on its head so that the whole thing hangs down from the high treble. But then I turn it into a spiral so that rather than always repeating in the same time, which it does the first few times, the theme starts to spiral upwards.

In April 2023 Mutter gave its US premiere with Nelsons and the Boston Symphony, following the world premiere of the piece at the Lucerne Festival in 2022 with Adès conducting. Air was commissioned by Roche as part of Roche Comissions for Lucerne Festival and co-commissioned by Anne-Sophie Mutter, Carnegie Hall and Boston Symphony Orchestra.

Adès’s soloist weaves a gossamer thread of sound through the orchestra’s stepwise descending lines, which gradually build, layer on layer, colour on colour...The cumulative effect of what is essentially a giant canon...is raptly intense. The economy and transcendent beauty of music that never raises its voice is totally beguiling.
The Guardian (Andrew Clements) 31 May 2024 

On 31 May Adès joined his longtime collaborator Kirill Gerstein for a performance of chamber and ensemble works at LSO St. Luke’s, as part of Gerstein’s residency with the LSO. The concert included a performance of Adès' Növények, seven Hungarian poems for mezzo-soprano and piano sextet, premiered at Wigmore Hall as part of the IMS Prussia Cove 50th anniversary series of concerts in 2022.

The 17-minute piece was performed by Hungarian mezzo Katalin Károlyi and Joseph Havlat (piano) alongside musicians from the LSO. Növények is Adès’ first set of original songs in nearly thirty years, since Life Story (1993) and Five Eliot Landscapes for soprano and piano (1990). Adès sets four great Hungarian poets: Attila József (1905-1937), Miklós Radnóti (1909-1944), Sándor Weöres (1913-1989) and Otto Orbán (1936-2002). He writes of the piece:

The word Növények means plants, but with the sense of ‘things that grow’ rather than ‘things that are stuck in the ground’. All the poems use botanical images as metaphors for aspects of the human condition. The metaphor is particularly direct in the case of Radnóti, who was murdered by Hungarian troops loyal to the Nazis. His last poems, including ‘Gyökér’, were found in a notebook in his coat pocket when his body was exhumed over a year later.

‘Gyökér’ – ‘Root’ – provided the germ for the larger work, composed in 2020 for Károlyi and four percussionists; it premiered on film. Its instrumentation was partly inspired by György Ligeti’s Síppal, dobbal, nádihegedűvel ('With Pipes, Drums, Fiddles') – also premiered by Károlyi.

As well as conducting Ligeti’s Concerto for Piano and Orchestra, Adès was at the keyboard for his Concerto Conciso (1997), conducted by Timothy Redmond. The 8-minute work is cast in two movements, the first of which sees the soloist in a semi-restricted role as a kind of continuo player; in the second – a slow ciacconetta followed by a tempestuous brawl – their virtuosity is released, and the soloist takes centre stage.

The LSO were joined by Gerstein earlier this season in October 2023 for performances of Adès’ Concerto for Piano and Orchestra in London and Dortmund, conducted by Antonio Pappano. In 2021 they gave the premiere of Adès’ Dawn with Simon Rattle – a chaconne – like Air – in which the unfurling movement of the bass suggests the rotation of the earth and the endless sunrise that unfolds across it.