ADES: Tevot; Violin Concerto; Three Studies from Couperin; Dances from Powder Her Face – Anthony Marwood, violin/ Berlin Philharmonic/Rattle /Chamber Orchestra of Europe/Ades – National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain/Daniel – EMI 5099 4 57813 2 2, 66:43 ****:
Among the plethora of English contemporary composers (Benjamin, Knussen, Macmillan, Turnage, Tavener, Birtwisle, Nyman, etc.) who write in a bewilderingly variety of styles, Thomas Ades stands out. Critics (especially British ones) laud his accomplishments and EMI has recorded most of Ades’ total output on 7 previous CDs, beginning in 1997. This is the eighth disc of his music from that label, and the first that gives us music exclusively from the third millennium. Does the music on this disc merit the attention he’s garnered?
Tevot, the Hebrew word for ark, is a 22 minute massive, dramatic orchestral work in one movement. “I was thinking about the ark, the vessel, in the piece as the earth. The earth would be a spaceship, a ship that carries us – and several other species! – through the chaos of space in safety. It sounds a bit colossal, but it’s the idea of the ship of the world,” comments the composer. There is an otherworldly, cosmic sense to this music, especially in the beginning as high woodwinds and strings create an eerie but compelling tapestry. But the ominous undertow in the brass foreshadows a massive thumping dissonance that dominates the central section. The storm clouds gradually clear and we enter another dimension: calm, celestial, yet powerful. It’s a striking work that should reveal more upon multiple hearings.
The middle movement of Ades’ 20 minute Violin Concerto contrasts a tense, lyrical violin (brilliantly performed by Anthony Marwood) against a rugged, plodding orchestral accompaniment. It’s the dominating section of the work, lyrical and dramatic at the same time and the most affecting music on this disc. The dissonant but exciting first movement is contrasted by the more harmonious, piquant and exuberant finale. This is an inventive addition to the violin concerto repertoire.
In Three Studies from Couperin, Ades takes the original orchestration and adds to it. The results sound stretched and compressed into a strange and weird amalgam of the original. Three dances from his acclaimed and controversial opera, Powder Her Face
are sardonic, sexy, entertaining and just plain fun.What makes Ades’ compositions so interesting is the variety of music on this disc and his brilliantly creative orchestration. Performances and sound from different artists and venues are excellent. These are original showpieces from one of the world’s greatest Twenty-First Century composers. Lovers of new music won’t want to miss this release.
— Robert Moon