Thomas Adès may not be the most prolific composer of his generation, but he is surely the most consistent and compelling, evidence of which comes in these live recordings of four works written over a three-year period from 2005.
Preoccupied with scale and tectonic motion, the 22-minute, single-span Tevot subjects the Berlin Philharmonic (for whom it was written in 2007) to near-primal forces, pulling and pushing it in sections and as a single, colossal entity into gravity-accelerated collisions that splinter and disrupt momentum before seamlessly re-configuring to resume an inexorable onward journey. Willingly subsumed within the Brucknerian tumult, the German band plays with utter conviction, long-time Adès champion Simon Rattle deftly scooping out startling detail while keeping a loose rein on the music’s elemental drive. The result is a magnificently muscular and nuanced reading that adroitly marries poetry to power.
The Violin Concerto from 2005 was recorded in London’s Barbican Centre in April 2007 and features the composer conducting soloist and dedicatee Anthony Marwood and the Chamber Orchestra of Europe. Scored for Beethovenian forces with two percussionists, it makes its first appearance on disc here, having originally been available as a download. Nimble, quicksilver and occasionally unstable outer movements orbit a saturnine centre which seethes and surges in clashing, overlapping cycles while slowly spinning off the centre of its sinewy axis.
The titles of the concerto – Concentric Paths – and its individual movements – Rings, Paths and Rounds – point to the swirling tensions of the piece. Counterbalancing the dark, perpetual thrust of the COE, Marwood etches an expressive melancholia into demanding solo violin lines that sear themselves into bright relief against the constant turbulence of a storm-grey, lighting-scarred mass.
From the same concert, the Three Studies from Couperin (2006) map keyboard pieces with improvisatory glee, each employing the same harmonies and rhythms as its original within an identical timeframe. They prompt a buoyant, dancing lightness of touch from the COE that is wholly appropriate. And to close, the glittering, jazz-scented Overture, twinkling Waltz and drunken Finale from the opera Powder Her Face are a gift to the youthful knowingness of the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain under Paul Daniel’s lightly handled baton. --Michael Quinn
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