Adès “Anthology” – EMI Classics – 2011
The acclaimed younger composer demonstrates his capacity for transforming the modern
world into unforgettable sound.
This two-CD set traces the development of Britain’s most acclaimed younger composer from
early orchestral pieces such as Living Toys, the coruscating These Premises are Alarmed and
his teenage miracle, Chamber Symphony, to his apocalyptic cantata, America. Also included
are new recordings of Adès playing four playfully parodistic paraphrases from his opera,
Powder Her Face, and his three Mazurkas. Adès emerges as a composer capable of
expressing the nihilistic terrors, frenetic pleasures and disorientating juxtapositions of
modern life in unforgettably vivid soundworlds.
Richard Morrison, The Times, 5 November 2011
This two-disc summary of Adès's career avoids some of the more obvious works – nothing
from The Tempest, for instance – but manages to include both his youngest work and some
recent, hitherto unrecorded pieces.
The latter feature the composer's solo piano four-part paraphrase of his opera Powder Her
Face, the elegant if sometimes jarringly modernist manner of which sits well alongside his
"Three Mazurkas", witty jeux d'esprit played with the Chopin-esque forms. The earliest piece
is his "Chamber Symphony", composed while still a teenager, a showcase for the basset
clarinet in which the louche and occasionally hysterical play of reeds and brass is powerfully
suggestive of an imagination bursting to be heard.
Andy Gill, The Independent, 30 September 2011*****
This two-disc anthology comes six months after the 40th birthday of Thomas Adès, now
reaching his early prime with two decades of achievement behind him and plenty of capacity
still to dazzle. The main new work is the 17-minute Concert Paraphrase for piano on four
scenes from his opera Powder Her Face. Full of Lisztian bravura and louche, sinewy tango, it
is virtuosically played by Adès himself, as are the three Mazurkas after Chopin. Devotees will
have most of the other works already – Living Toys, America: A Prophecy, These Premises
are Alarmed etc – but this is essential Adès, impeccably performed, for those wanting to
survey the oeuvre in all its quixotic variety.
Fiona Maddocks, The Observer, 25 September 2011
Last month, whilst studying at Chetham’s School of Music, I asked my composition tutor
“How does Tom Ades write his music?” to which he replied, “Well, Ades is a very special
man” Thomas Ades is a very special man, age 19 his first opus was published ‘Five Eliot
Landscapes’, for piano and solo soprano. Ten years later he was the youngest composer ever
to win the Grawemeyer Award for composition with his ‘Asyla’, for large orchestra; published
age 26. Now, to mark Ades’ 40th birthday, EMI has released the “Ades anthology”
comprising of nine of his largest works, (eighteen tracks), from the last 20 years, and if that
wasn’t enough Ades has just been crowned the USA’s composer of the year 2011.
‘Ades: Anthology’ delivers a palatable dose of Ades containing a wide range of repertoire with
the likes of his three piano mazurkas, ‘Mazurkas for Piano Op. 27’, paraphrase of his opera,
‘Powder Her Face’, ‘Chamber Symphony op.2’, (Written while still studying at Cambridge
University), and the epic, ‘America: A Prophecy’.
What Ades does is bring the orchestra to life. A very vague statement, I know, however, Ades’
imagination creates a sound world just like our own with such drama, emotion, fear and
humor, each individual instrumental line seems to ignite with incredibly complex rhythms
with an unpredictable nature which is typical Ades. For example, in ‘Living Toys’, the
instruments play with each other in a childish manner with an incredible sense of character;
almost crying in ‘Playing Funerals’ and fighting one another in ‘Battles’. On the other hand in
his cantata, ‘America – A Prophecy’, Ades creates a horrifying atmosphere by using ‘icy’
soprano, unusually, without vibrato. With lines such as “Oh my nation prepare”, “Your cities
will fall” and “It is foretold”, cleverly contrasted with an epic full orchestral fanfare with
chorus. This piece was grimly commissioned by the New York Philamonic to mark the
millennium. Part two continues with “On earth we shall burn” and “We shall turn to ash”,
very simple and harmonious before erupting into the carnage that Ades so craftily creates.
Listening to Ades, unlike many 21st century composers, doesn’t require a degree thus his
popularity and these two CDs provide a very satisfying survey of his phenomenal output.
Alexander Symcox, The Periodical, 25 September 2011