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An acclaimed conductor and pianist as well as a composer, Thomas Adès has outgrown his status as the wunderkind of the British scene and become one of the most imposing figures in contemporary music. For his LSO Live debut, he conducts all of his seminal ‘Trilogy’ works – Asyla, Tevot & Polaris– pieces that not only occupy a special place in his output, but in modern classical music as a whole. This major release is also features a Dolby Atmos soundtrack, recreating even more precisely the unique atmosphere a concert of Adès’s music creates.
Composed in 1997, Asyla is one of the works that announced Adès as a major new voice. The title is the plural form of the word asylum, and plays on the dual meaning of both madhouse and sanctuary. Typical of his orchestral works, it utilises a large orchestra (including six percussionists and a variety of treated pianos) to achieve an array of colours, textures and timbres. It also showcases Ades’s wide-ranging influences, with a ‘four-on-the-floor’ techno drumbeat as the impetus behind the famous Ecstasiomovement.
Tevot is a one movement symphony that builds upon the ideas of Asyla and pushes the players to the limits of their technical ability, with long passages written in stratospheric registers. Again, there is a dual meaning at play in the title, as Tevot is the Hebrew word for bars as well as closely related to the word used in the Bible when referring to Noah’s ark.
The final Trilogy work, Polaris, was composed in 2010 and is subtitled ‘A Voyage for Orchestra’. Taking the North Star as its inspiration, despite a relatively short running time it conjures up a definite sense of vastness, with musicians placed offstage to enhance the sense of space. The album also includes the Adès miniature Brahms, with words by Alfred Brendel. Sung here by baritone Samuel Dale Johnson, it is an ‘anti-homage’ to the composer inspired by the cold logic of his music, taking his compositional compulsions to extreme conclusions.