Atonal but with broadly appealing programmatic content and an awareness of the world beyond the classical concert hall, the three large orchestral works presented here have been designated by composer Thomas Adès as a kind of trilogy. Indeed they seem to flow from one into the other, with Asyla and Tevot (Hebrew for "musical bars" or "words") united by their use of stable places or threads amid chaos (the "asyla" of the opening work are in the sense of refuges, not places for the insane), and the broader musical spaces of Tevot leading to the celestial visions of Polaris. The works, with dense and often clashing orchestral elements cohering into clear structures, are recognizably by the same composer, but they show an evolution; the brash Asyla is a quintessentially youthful work. All three share a preoccupation with orchestral sonority, pursued with writing that lies at the limits of players' capabilities, and a good performance of Adès' work should convey the presence of those limits. These readings by the London Symphony Orchestra, with Adès himself at the helm, certainly fill the bill, and the accompanying Blu-Ray disc gives an idea of the efforts involved in these live concerts (one each for Asyla and for the other three works; no splicing involved). The sound on the music CD is also top-notch. You could sample the "Ecstasio" movement of Asyla (track 3) for an idea of what Adès is about, or you could turn to the rarity included as a bonus: an orchestral text to a poem by pianist Alfred Brendel, about Brahms. Highly recommended with the LSO sounding highly energized.
AllMusic Review by James Manheim
Track Listing - Disc 1
|Asyla, Op. 17|
Track Listing - Disc 2
|Asyla, Op. 17|