Thomas Adès

Introduction

Renowned as both a composer and a performer, Thomas Adès works regularly with the world’s leading orchestras, opera companies and festivals. 

As a conductor, he enjoys close associations with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Boston, London, BBC, City of Birmingham, Melbourne and Sydney Symphony Orchestras, as well as the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra.  In opera, he has conducted The Rake’s Progress at the Royal Opera House, London and the Zürich Opera, and made his debut at the Metropolitan Opera New York conducting The Tempest.  Future plans include conducting The Tempest at the Vienna State Opera (2015) with the Vienna Philharmonic, and Totentanz with the Boston and Chicago Symphony Orchestras and the Los Angeles and New York Philharmonic Orchestras.

His recent piano engagements include solo recitals at Carnegie Hall (Stern Auditorium), New York and the Barbican in London, and concerto appearances with the New York Philharmonic. This season he appears throughout Europe with Ian Bostridge in a tour of Schubert’s Winterreise to include Vienna, Luxembourg, Hamburg, Paris, Budapest, Bilbao and Warsaw.

His CD recording of The Tempest from the Royal Opera House (EMI) won the Contemporary category of the 2010 Gramophone Awards; and his DVD of the production from the Metropolitan Opera was awarded the Diapason d'Or de l'année (2013), Best Opera recording (2014 Grammy Awards) and Music DVD Recording of the Year (2014 ECHO Klassik Awards).  His recordings of Beethoven, Schubert, Schumann, Tchaikovsky, Nancarrow, Kurtág, Ruders and Barry have been critically acclaimed. 

This is for information only and should not be reproduced. Please contact Sophie Dand for a full/up-to-date biography.

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    BBC Proms 2013

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Interviews and Media

Press

Adès

See the Music, Hear the Dance

Sadler's Wells Theatre

Adès provides exhilarating inspiration
Sadler’s Wells has been presenting an ambitious programme of choreography set to the music of the entrancingly inventive Thomas Adès…
Polaris shows the talented Pite working at an exceptional level of confidence. It also reminds us that someone (Millepied perhaps) needs to commission Adès to write a designated dance score.
4**** Judith Mackrell, The Guardian, 2 November 2014
Sadler's Wells: 'an extraordinary feat'
The title of this programme of dance set to the music of Thomas Adès is a quotation from the celebrated choreographer George Balanchine about his collaborations with Stravinsky. And it doesn’t feel too fanciful to see this inventive, pioneering British composer as a Stravinsky of our time, putting his music at the service of dance.
These four works, made to pre-existing Adès scores, also prove another Balanchine adage that "dance is music made visible." They transform and reveal the music in exciting new ways.
Throughout, the playing of the Britten Sinfonia is outstanding (with Thomas Gould a dazzling violin soloist) and it is a pure pleasure to see Adès, whether conducting or playing the piano, responding to the dance and the dancers.
It is, then, an outstanding evening.
4**** Sarah Crompton, The Telegraph, 1 November 2014
Contemporary dance and contemporary music meet in an eager tryst between composer Thomas Adès and an assortment of choreographers. Four works, two new commissions, 78 dancers, a vast orchestra in the pit and Adès himself at the piano. It’s a sensory feast…
Pite had to come up with a big idea to match the eponymous score, which is cinematic in scope, sci-fi in tone; what a 21st-century Star Wars should sound like. She corrals a cast of 64 who move as a single organism, black-clad bodies swarming on stage like a thick murmuration of starlings. They swell and huddle, pulsating like bubbling tar, falling in domino effect, all subtly, beautifully lit. A fantastic finale.
4**** Lyndsey Winship, Evening Standard, 3 November 2014
What a remarkable pleasure it is to hear music of this calibre and complexity used for contemporary dance… I was delighted and intrigued by the seriousness and richness of Adés's scores when I started listening to them before the show. An even greater pleasure awaited at Sadler's: the very fine playing of the Britten Sinfonia…
Huge scope and spectacle definitely brought the dance out on top here, matching the theatricality of Adès's score (played from corners of the auditorium as well as from the pit, with the composer himself at the baton) with something just as impressive.
Hanna Weibye, The Arts Desk, 1 November 2014

Schubert 'Winterreise'

With Ian Bostridge

Snape Maltings Concert Hall

…it was an evening enhanced by the generosity of both musicians. In “Der Lindenbaum” (“The Linden Tree”), a song of bleak nostalgia and fleeting sweetness, there were alternating flourishes, Adès barely leaving an impression on the keys during the heartbreaking third verse, then attacking the piano interludes with propulsive focus.
Laura Battle, The Financial Times, 24 June 2014

CBSO - June 2014

Symphony Hall Birmingham

Ades began his programme with Ravel's Mother Goose ballet, beautifully shaped and glowing… double-basses wonderfully grunting under Ades' fluid, flickering baton....But best of all was Ades' own Tevot, scored for a huge orchestra (seven percussionists, no less), resonances of Mahler and Holst, and its textures and sonorities scything with accents. It ends with warm triumph, like Roy Harris' Third Symphony of nearly a century ago. 
Christopher Morley, The Birmingham Post, 12 June 2014
Adès's return to Symphony Hall showed that his rapport with the orchestra is still there, and that his knack of devising programmes that are both attractive and innovative is as potent as ever. 
Andrew Clements, The Guardian, 12 June 2014 (4* star)
This yoking together of the exquisite and the over-intense bore all the hallmarks of the big-framed, eagerly gesturing musician on the podium: Thomas Adès. He is an enthusiast for extremes, and this programme reflected that. Never did Ravel’s piece sound cosy, as it often does. Adès made it seem urgent and almost dangerous – as indeed it is, when Beauty has her conversation with the Beast.
Ivan Hewett, The Telegraph, 22 June 2014 (4* star)

BBC Proms

Adès 'Totentanz' World Premiere

Royal Albert Hall

In the closing pages death and humanity seem to reach a truce in a passage of almost Straussian lyricism, Adès's most frankly expressive music to date, but it proves only temporary and the work ends in the lowest depths of the orchestra, having worked its way downwards...The performance was wonderfully compelling, with the BBCSO revelling in the virtuoso challenges Adès sets them, and the soloists giving their roles an almost operatic vividness…Adès had begun with Britten's Sinfonia da Requiem, unleashing its fury with frightening vividness, as if anticipating the dance of death that would come later.

Andrew Clements, The Guardian, 18 July 2013
…in a series of increasingly pretty after-echoes, the collateral damage is cleared away, and we find ourselves in a cleansed and beguiling sound-world which might have been created by Mahler in one of his serenely visionary moods…
It makes huge demands on the baritone and mezzo-soprano who must carry the drama and hold their own against the percussion-heavy orchestra, but in Simon Keenlyside and Christianne Stotijn Tom Ades had struck gold: both made utterly convincing sense of their daunting melodic lines, often in grotesque duet: Keenlyside’s suggesting giant inexorability, and Stotijn’s a nightmarish torment. On the podium, Ades was able to bring out both the savagery and the beauty of his score, but I suggest that he doesn’t stop there: with a suitably Expressionist staging, this could make a very effective one-act opera.

Michael Church, The Independent, 18 July 2013
It was only a matter of time before Adès, British music’s Lord of the Dance, wrote a Totentanz, and the result achieves all the macabre giddiness you might expect, liberally laced with fragments of the Dies Irae planchaint...Totentanz is a major work, and one that has a natural place in the repertoire alongside the big orchestral song cycles and symphonies of the late German Romantics. Surely this will be one Proms premiere with a real afterlife. Alexandra Coghlan, The Arts Desk, 18 July 2013

Adès, Sibelius & Prokoviev

Boston Symphony Orchestra

Symphony Hall, Boston

…the supremely gifted British composer-conductor-pianist led the first of three performances of a program featuring his own Genesis-inspired piano concerto alongside music of Prokofiev and Sibelius...
Adès’s “In Seven Days” takes a more granular, street-level view of the birth of the world, distributing the seven days from the Genesis story into seven teeming movements, inspired more metaphorically than pictorially by the events they describe (”Chaos-Dark-Light,” “Separation of the waters into sea and sky,” etc.) A circular path is implied by the use of a passacaglia-like form, with the music at the end sending us back to the beginning, but the effect is still more of spiraling forward than any kind of eternal recurrence. Adès also plays ingeniously with layering music of multiple speeds, with the soloist and portions of the orchestra moving in and out of sync, passing each other like cars in different lanes on a highway. Like so much of Adès’s music, there is here both intellectual rigor and a sensuality connected with the mercurial surfaces of sound itself. 

Jeremy Eichler, The Boston Globe, 16 November 2012

Adès

The Tempest

Metropolitan Opera, New York

At its London premiere, I thought “The Tempest” one of the most inspired, audacious and personal operas to have come along in years. I feel this even more strongly after the Met’s fantastical production… The main reason “The Tempest” has such power is its music….The music is…rendered with lacy lyrical writing and ethereal harmonies by the multiskilled Mr. Ades, who, by the way, drew a textured, glittering and suspenseful account of his opera from the great Met orchestra.  

Anthony Tommasini, The New York Times, 24 October 2012
…the inspiring, presence of Adès in the pit.

Martin Bernheimer, Financial Times, 24 October 2012
In Adès’ adaptation, which was premiered at Covent Garden in 2004, the 41-year-old English composer provides both, along with sharp psychological insight, humor, magic, and a lingering air of melancholy. Shot through with the archaic beauty of Meredith Oakes’ libretto and brought to life in a dazzling and thought-provoking production by Robert Lepage, The Tempest is one of the most satisfying operas to blow onto the stage of the Met in years.

Corinna da Fonseca-Wollheim, The Classical Review, 24 October 2012
British composer Thomas Ades has written a magical score for "The Tempest," his setting of Shakespeare's tale of revenge and reconciliation…And it sounded glorious Tuesday night when the Metropolitan Opera presented it for the first time with a strong cast and the composer himself conducting. 
Ades wrote the work on commission for the Royal Opera House in London, which premiered it to acclaim in 2004. It's a compact piece, barely two hours of music, but profoundly dense and intricate in the way it manages through shifting melody, rhythm and orchestral texture to recreate the world of the play in all its tumult and richness.
The score, by turns dissonant and lyrical, frenzied and calm, is filled with memorable passages of striking originality. Among them: the turbulent opening storm scene, when the exiled magician Prospero shipwrecks his enemies; a haunting aria in which the half-savage Caliban describes the sounds of the island to which he is rightful heir; a duet tinged with wonder for Prospero's daughter Miranda and her newfound love Ferdinand; a soaring, lyrical quintet for five of the principals in the final scene. And Ades has made the role of the spirit Ariel a tour de force for coloratura soprano, giving her a vocal line that hovers much of the time well above high C…
The Met season is only a month old, but it's safe to say "The Tempest" will be remembered as one of its musical highlights.

Mike Silverman, Associated Press, 24 October 2012

Gerald Barry

The Importance of Being Earnest

Barbican Centre & Symphony Hall, Birmingham

It's all ferociously difficult to sing and play, but the performance under Adès seemed staggeringly good.
Andrew Clements, The Guardian, 27 April 2012
Thomas Adès conducted the virtuoso Birmingham Contemporary Music Group with panache…
Rupert Christiansen, The Telegraph, 27 April 2012
… the mercurial interplay between voices and instruments, superbly sustained here by the conductor Thomas Adès.
Richard Morrison, The Times, 29 April 2012

Queen Elizabeth Hall, London

Britten Sinfonia

5***** 
An ingenious programme linking Adès to François Couperin, via Ravel's Tombeau and Stravinsky's two Suites for Small Orchestra, it communicated a deep-rooted, unshakeable joy. It wasn't the kind of transient euphoria that comes from having been thrilled, cajoled or even simply bowled over by the talent and enthusiasm of the playing (though these were part of it – one expects nothing less from this inspirational orchestra), but a more lasting emotion, the kind that affects our sense of how, and who, we are.

Guy Dammann, The Guardian, 29 February 2012

Alice Tully Hall, New York

Britten Sinfonia

This acclaimed British ensemble presented an imaginative program conceived and conducted by the composer Thomas Adès, whose skills as a pianist were also on display. It was worth the wait.…This appearance was part of the orchestra’s “Concentric Paths” tour, the title being that of Mr. Adès’s exhilarating 2005 violin concerto, featured in the tour. This 20-minute work in three movements explores circular patterns in which spiraling, sometimes frenzied violin riffs coalesce into long spans of breathless, propulsive orchestral wildness…It began with Mr. Adès’s performance on piano of a Couperin harpsichord piece, “Les Baricades Mistérieuses” (“The Mysterious Barricades”), all undulant contrapuntal lines and flowing filigree. Mr. Adès played with milky impressionist textures while bringing out crucial voices and harmonic shifts. Then he conducted five players from the orchestra in his unconventional arrangement of the piece, complete with bass clarinet. Mr. Adès teases out clashing dissonances and jerky rhythmic interplay from the original.… The first half ended with Mr. Adès conducting a refreshingly articulate and colorful performance of Ravel’s “Tombeau de Couperin,” a suite of four pieces that lightly evoke the style, dance forms and idiom of Couperin in plush music that is pure Ravel…The performance of Mr. Adès’s formidable concerto, which ended the program, drew a deserved ovation…
Anthony Tommasini, The New York Times, 23 February 2012

West Road Concert Hall, Cambridge

Britten Sinfonia

Tonight in New York the Britten Sinfonia makes its American debut. It should be a triumph. I can’t imagine a finer demonstration of its quintessential qualities — virtuoso musicianship and a gloriously imaginative choice of repertoire, soloists and conductors — than this programme.
Thomas Adès was the centre of it, as conductor and composer. But as so often with this orchestra, one thing led quirkily to another. Adès has long been fascinated by the Baroque composer Couperin, so the concert began not with the orchestra, but with him playing Couperin’s enigmatically named keyboard piece, Les baricades mistérieuses, on the piano — the mesmerically recurring harmonic sequences made all the more mistérieuses, it must be said, by Adès’s blurry pedalling.
That led to his marvellously lugubrious arrangement of the same piece for a quintet of low instruments, followed by his Three Studies from Couperin in which the Frenchman’s originals are treated more freely and with a scintillating ear for instrumental combinations. The first is shadowy and baritonal; the second an ecstatic exercise in pointillism; the third a poised French overture given a macabre twist by melodramatic drums.
It was daring of Adès to follow that with another master orchestrator’s homage to the same composer: Ravel’s Le Tombeau de Couperin. But his own music lost nothing by the comparison, though the Ravel was played with fleet-fingered exuberance, not least by the oboist Nicholas Daniel, the new recipient of the Queen’s Medal for Music.
The second half was just as stimulating. The Finnish violinist Pekka Kuusisto, probably the most engaging maverick in classical music today, appeared once to give a startlingly eerie account of Stravinsky’s Airs du rossignol and Marche chinoise, again to supply the piano part in the orchestra’s aptly grotesque romp through the same composer’s Suites Nos 1 and 2 for Small Orchestra; and a third time as a superbly characterful soloist in Adès’s own violin concerto, Concentric Paths. Written in 2005, it’s a fabulous piece: seemingly free-wheeling yet utterly cogent, with elegiac reminiscences of many things interlaced with baleful gestures and stratospheric lyricism for the soloist. If you can’t get to the Lincoln Centre in New York tonight, catch it in Norwich on Saturday, or London (and live on Radio 3) on Monday.
Richard Morrison, The Times, 22 February 2012

Adès: Polaris UK Premiere

New York Philharmonic Orchestra

Barbican Centre, London

The pin-point accuracy of the orchestra’s sound was ideal for Thomas Adès’s Polaris, given its UK premiere on Friday. I was bracing myself for its innocent musical-box beginning to build into an alarming and almost mad complexity, which is what usually happens in Adès’s music. In fact, the music never lost its air of wide‑eyed wonder, even at the biggest moments.
You might say this was fitting for a piece that mused on stars, and the way they guide sailors to their destination. But what about the human aspect of this image? Stars get obscured, sailors become lost, ships go down. The music stayed aloof from all that, floating in beautiful abstraction, and ending in a too-easy affirmation.
Ivan Hewett, The Telegraph (5*), 20 February 2012

Adès and Mahler

Barbican Centre, London

London Symphony Orchestra

Full concert regalia, enthusiastic conducting, trim facial hair: Thomas Adès seems to appear more like Henry Wood every day. Not that the venerated Proms founder appears to loom over his music, though Adès’s range of reference as a composer is wide enough, both in subject and style. This tumultuous concert with the London Symphony Orchestra used a platform full of beavering musicians to duplicate the world’s biblical Creation.
Tevot (from 2007) is an immensely- powerful meditation on the Earth as our hearth and home, a safe haven in a chaotic cosmos. It was all very humbling. Adès’s command of a large orchestra’s resources is supreme: in building and executing a symphonic argument there’s not a living composer to top him. Tevot alone gives proof enough with its masterful mix of continuity and disruption. During its voyaging the heavens are hit, the sea bottom scraped; then, eventually, against superfine strings, the music settles into a winding melody, comforting as a cradle, safely carrying its precious charge like Moses’ reed basket or Noah’s Ark.
The LSO, immaculately drilled and polished, guided us with equal safety — as they did earlier through Adès’s slightly later In Seven Days (2008). Stripped for once of Tal Rosner’s video component (six screens of pulsing waves, circles, blobs and spindles), the musical tapestry of shifting patterns easily survived as a vital, stand-alone concert piece.Nicolas Hodges, the piano soloist, masterfully threaded his way from chaos to living creatures. Adès, too, gave it his all, as he does every piece that he conducts: big gestures, big grins, with every dynamic jolt and emotional shiver felt in the bones.Placed alongside these peaks, the programme’s other items could only shrivel. Hidd’n Blue, four-and-a-half minutes from the young Spanish-born Francisco Coll (Adès’s only composition pupil to date) still swirled and juddered with an exuberant orchestral imagination, a good portent for the composer’s future.
Geoff Brown, The Times, 16 January 2012

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Recordings

Adès: The Tempest DVD

Thomas Adès, Conductor; Simon Keenlyside, Prospero; Isabel Leonard, Miranda; Alan Oke, Caliban; William Burden, King of Naples; Toby Spence, Antonio; Iestyn Davies, Trinculo; Metropolitan Opera Company

Best Opera Recording (2014 Grammy Awards) 
Music DVD Recording of the Year (2014 Echo Klassik Awards)
Diapason d'Or de l'année (2013)
Deutsche Grammophon

British Composers - Ades: Life Story

This survey of Adès’s early works for small forces rejoices in a compositional voice of precocious assurance. His sideways look at musical techniques and human frailty consistently provokes, teases, satisfies and delights the ear. His considerable talents as a pianist are also displayed in these first recordings by a composer of and for our time.
EMI Classics

Adès: Tevot & Violin Concerto

Performers on this album include Sir Simon Rattle & the Berliner Philharmoniker, Thomas Adès, Chamber Orchestra of Europe & Anthony Marwood, Paul Daniel & The National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain.

EMI Classics

The Tempest

Thomas Adès - Composer
Royal Opera House Orchestra & Chorus - Orchestra
Kate Royal 
Ian Bostridge 
Simon Keenlyside 
Toby Spence
Philip Langridge
Winner in the Contemporary category of the 2010 Gramophone Awards

EMI Classics

Adès: Asyla

Sir Simon Rattle
Thomas Adès
City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra
Birmingham Contemporary Music Group
EMI