Ades: Asyla; Concerto Conciso; Chamber Symphony: These Premises are Alarmed;…but all shall be well

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Ades
LABELS: EMI
WORKS: Asyla; Concerto Conciso; Chamber Symphony: These Premises are Alarmed;…but all shall be well
PERFORMER: CBSO/Simon Rattle, Birmingham Contemporary Music Group/Thomas Adès
CATALOGUE NO: CDC 5 56818 2

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This is the fourth disc of music by Thomas Adès, reaffirming his status as the most brilliantly inventive British composer of his generation. Adès is something of a miniaturist and the 23-minute Asyla, commissioned for the CBSO in 1997, is, in terms of scale, his biggest work to date (Powder her Face is longer but scored for smaller forces). The title (the plural of ‘asylum’) is ambivalent, suggesting both ‘refuge’ and ‘madhouse’. Intermittent cowbells epitomise the former, while the latter aspect reaches its extreme point in the third movement, aptly described by Andrew Porter as ‘a sort of Rite of Spring cum disco’ — at once exhilarating and disturbing. In the Chamber Symphony, tango and distant Weberian horncalls combine in the kind of phantasmagorical fantasy Adès conjures so well. Equally surreal, and astonishingly original, effects are heard in the Concerto Conciso, where Adès himself, as piano soloist, negotiates rhythms as fearsomely intricate as those of Conlon Nancarrow. The complexity of texture is almost incidental here, whereas These Premises are Alarmed (written for the Hallé’s inaugural concert in Manchester’s Bridgewater Hall) is a tour de force of orchestral virtuosity. Both Adès’s verve and his fine ear for rarefied sonority are matched by Rattle, with the CBSO as alert, responsive partners. If you want to know what all the fuss is about, this disc is as good a place to start as any. Barry Millington