Producer: James Mallinson
Engineering: Classic Sound Ltd
Recorded: Live in DSD, March 2016, Barbican Hall, London
First performed by the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra under Sir Simon Rattle in October 1997, Adès’ Asyla quickly established itself as the first big orchestral work of a remarkable composer. Adès was only 26 at the time of composition, but already startlingly aware of the musical world around him, of yet unsounded potentials in a large orchestra, and of his own creative strengths. The word “asyla” – the Latin plural form of “asylum” – has a number of meanings – places of safety (sanctuaries); places of confinement (e.g. madhouse); places of last resort. These numerous meanings are evident amongst the various atmospheres the music creates.
Around a decade after Asyla comes – effectively – Adès’ second symphony, Tevot. Again, a title with multiple meanings, the Hebrew word ‘tevot’ is the ordinary musical term for ‘bars’; it can also mean ‘words’. In the singular, as ‘tevah’, it appears just twice in the Bible in very special and similar contexts: for the ark built by Noah and for the reed basket made by Moses’ mother to float him on the Nile. These tevot are both places of safety – asyla. In the composer’s own words:
“I liked the idea that the bars of the music were carrying the notes as a sort of family through the piece … And I was thinking about the ark, the vessel, in the piece as the earth, which carries us – and several other species – through the chaos of space in safety”.
Polaris, the final of the so-called triology, has been described as “space travel in sound”. Steadily, through the first third of the 15-minute composition, density and dynamic level increase to a protracted climax. What might seem the goal is, however, only a station on the way to further voyage. Again, from the composer – “Polaris explores the use of star constellations for naval navigation and the emotional navigation between the absent sailors and what they leave behind…”.
The quirky miniature, Brahms, based on a short poem by Alfred Brendel about the composer Johannes Brahms’ ghost, and commissioned for his 70th birthday, concludes the disc.
Introduction notes based on the programme notes by Paul Griffiths.Society of Sound members download the album here
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