THOMAS ADÈS (b.1971): Asyla, Tevot, Polaris (voyage for Orchestra), Brahms (w/Samuel Dale Johnson [baritone]).
Catalogue Number: 04S078
Label: LSO Live
Format: SACD hybrid
Description: Three large orchestral works of breathtaking accomplishment and assertive brilliance. Asyla, a symphony in all but name, was an early score, from the years in which Adès emerged, seemingly overnight, as the precocious young genius of British music. The assurance with which Adès handles his huge orchestral forces is impressive. In its four movements, the piece (the title of which suggests both a place of refuge and a home for the insane. A feeling of ritual is established at the beginning by the sound of bells, then the restless energy that has been a characteristic of the composer's work since the beginning asserts itself in a nervous development of a long-breathed theme assailed by a barrage of orchestral effects. Pulsing rhythms propel the entire work; here they take on an obsessive quality. The slow movement is elegiac and sombre, destabilized by the presence of a detuned piano, which re-emerges in the finale. The frenetic scherzo 'Ecstasio' is somewhere between nightmare and nightclub, its jittery, pounding beat suggesting a 'bad trip' in the search for enlightenment. The expansive finale is mysterious, building momentum over a slow, subterranean bass line, leading to a sudden climactic chord and then disintegrating. Asyla is firmly based in tonality; this has become more clearly established still in the composer's more recent work, such as the monumental Tevot, a twenty-minute single span of symphonic scope. With Biblical and musical associations, the work's cascading monolithic plates and planes of sound suggest the irresistible forces of nature. Explosive eruptions crowned by incandescent Janáček-like fanfares give way to an infinite soundscape, a journey into a limitless void. Polaris, as the name suggests, also explores themes of celestial vastness. Building up increasingly dense textures from repetitive, canonic gestures the work climaxes in a huge, chorale-like statement of the polar theme around which the work revolves. Celestial navigation also comes into play; swirling aquatic imagery (audibly indebted to Peter Grimes; the piece was premiered accompanied by abstract sea images by video artist Tal Rosner) makes an appearance in the work's second half. Brahms is an anti-homage to the great composer; setting a satirical poem by Alfred Brendel (yes, that one), Adès works some of Brahms' compositional tics into a clever, five-minute entertainment. 1 Blu-ray Audio disc + 1 SACD hybrid. London Symphony Orchestra; Thomas Adès.