‘My name, Adès, is a Syrian Jewish name of some antiquity, as I understand. It is spelled in Hebrew with “ayin”, rather than “aleph”’, Thomas Adès explains.
A superstar of almost biblical proportions, in the musical classical world – Adès is about to get a series of performances at Sadler’s Wells dedicated to his music. He will star as conductor, pianist and composer, while the world’s top choreographers, headed by UK choreographer Wayne McGregor, unleash their dancers on him – in pieces ranging from the violin concerto Concentric Paths, to Polaris and the Piano Quintet.
‘My music is unpredictable’, Adès explains. ‘On the whole the pieces are still volatile living organisms to me when I perform them.’
Thomas Adès was born in London in 1971. Piano, and then composition studies, as a child and teenager, led to a double starred first in Music at King’s College, Cambridge. Titles like Professor of Composition at the Royal Academy of Music, and Artistic Director of the world-famous Aldeburgh Festival, came to Adès at a very young age. He has been variously described as ‘maybe the most extravagantly gifted of the UK’s young composers’ – Sir Simon Rattle – to ‘outgrowing his status as the wunderkind of a vibrant British scene to become one of the most imposing figures in contemporary music’ The New Yorker.
In recent years, he has written works in the Hebrew language – Tevyot – and built plot lines around the story of creation In Seven Days.
‘I was quite ignorant of my Jewish roots’ Adès explains ‘but, in uncovering them, I’ve discovered a fruitful contradiction with what I would loosely call my English side. It’s given me a different way of thinking, perhaps a certain clarity, almost harshness, as opposed to what might be called the English fog.’
Adès’ music will be performed by the pioneering ensemble the Britten Sinfonia. His music has an extra-terrestrial feel to it; a superstar stadium-filler quality. As Sir Simon Rattle puts it, ‘it gleefully plunders a weird, wonderful and eccentric selection of the past and transmutes it into an unmistakably new voice. It is, almost without exception, written at the far reaches of instrumental virtuosity ‘.
Choreographers getting to cut their teeth for the first time on Adès’ music are Alexander Whitley, Karole Armitage and Crystal Pite. For Wayne McGregor, this will be the UK premiere of a work, Outlier, that he created for New York City Ballet, which received rave reviews in 2010; this time around it will be performed by the Royal Ballet Flanders.