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Adès Thomas

Born in London in 1971, he studied piano at the Guildhall School of Music & Drama, and read music at King’s College, Cambridge. Between 1993 and 1995 he was Composer-in-Association with the Hallé Orchestra, which resulted in The Origin of the Harp (1994), and These Premises Are Alarmed for the opening of the Bridgewater Hall in 1996. Asyla (1997) was a Feeney Trust commission for Sir Simon Rattle and the CBSO, who toured it together, and repeated it at Symphony Hall in August 1998 in Rattle’s last concert as Music Director. Rattle subsequently programmed Asyla in his opening concert as Music Director of the Berlin Philharmonic in September 2002.

Adès’ operas have brought him worldwide acclaim. His first opera, Powder Her Face (commissioned by Almeida Opera for the Cheltenham Festival in 1995), has been performed all over the world, was televised by Channel Four, and is available on DVD as well as an EMI CD. Most of the composer’s music has been recorded by EMI, with whom Adès has a contract as composer, pianist and conductor. Adès’ second opera, The Tempest, was commissioned by London’s Royal Opera House and was premiered under the baton of the composer to great critical acclaim in February 2004. It was revived in 2007 – again to a sold-out house (a performance now available on CD) and has since been seen in Copenhagen, Strasbourg, Santa Fe, Frankfurt, Lübeck and Quebec. In 2012 The Tempest was performed at the Metropolitan Opera in New York in a striking new production by Robert Le Page (as well as transmitted live to more than 1800 cinemas in 55 countries). The same production will be staged at the Wiener Staatsoper as part of the 2014/15 season. Adès is currently writing his third opera based on Luis Buñuel’s film The Exterminating Angel. It is commissioned by the Salzburg Festival, the Royal Opera House in London and the Metropolitan Opera in New York.

Adès is equally feted for his orchestral works. Recent pieces include Violin Concerto: Concentric Paths (2005) for Anthony Marwood, which was premiered at the Berliner Festspiele and the BBC Proms, with the Chamber Orchestra of Europe under Adès’ baton. His second orchestral work for Simon Rattle, Tevot, (2007) was commissioned by the Berlin Philharmonic and Carnegie Hall. In Seven Days (for video, solo piano and orchestra) was premiered in April 2008 at the South Bank and Los Angeles to great acclaim. Polaris (2010) was premiered by the New World Symphony at the opening of their new Miami concert hall. It has since been performed by the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, the New York Philharmonic, the Calouste Gulbenkian Orchestra, the Los Angeles Philharmonic and San Francisco Symphony. Adès’ most recent work, Totentanz, a substantial orchestral song cycle for mezzo-soprano and baritone, was premiered at the 2013 Proms by the BBC Symphony Orchestra with Adès conducting. Adès’ reputation worldwide is now such that a number of international festivals have programmed focuses on his music. Among these are Helsinki Musica Nova (1999), Salzburg Easter Festival (2004), Radio France’s Présences, Paris (2007), the Barbican’s Traced Overhead, London (2007), New Horizons Festival, St. Petersburg (2007), Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Festival (2009), Melbourne Festival (2010), Holland Festival (2011); Carnegie Hall appointed him to the R. and B. Debs Composer Chair and featured him as composer, conductor and pianist throughout the 2007/08 season.

Unusually for such a full-time composer, Adès is also a renowned interpreter of a range of other music and his performances and recordings of composers including Kurtág, Nancarrow, Schumann, Schubert, Ruders, Tchaikovsky, Barry and Beethoven. The many orchestras he has conducted include the Los Angeles Philharmonic (with whom he has built a special relationship), the Concertgebouw, City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, Chamber Orchestra of Europe, Philharmonia, Orchestre National de Radio France, London Symphony Orchestra, Hallé, BBC, Finnish and Danish Radio Symphony Orchestras, Stockholm Philharmonic and ensembles such as Birmingham Contemporary Music Group (he was their Artistic Director for several years), the London Sinfonietta and Ensemble Modern.

Adès’ music has attracted numerous awards and prizes, including the Grawemeyer Award (2000) of which he is the youngest ever recipient. He is the only composer to have won the Royal Philharmonic Prize for large-scale composition three times. He was Artistic Director of the Aldeburgh Festival between 1999 and 2008.


Selected works: The Lover in Winter, four songs for countertenor and piano (1989), Five Eliot Landscapes (1990) for soprano and piano, Chamber Symphony (1990), O thou who didst with pitfall and with gin for male voices (1990), Gefriolsae Me for male voices and organ (1990), Catch for four musicians (1991), Darknesse Visible for piano (1992), Fool’s Rhymes for choir and ensemble (1992), Under Hamelin Hill for organ (1992), Still Sorrowing for piano (1992), Life Story for soprano and three musicians (1993), Living Toys for fourteen musicians (1993), ...but all shall be well for orchestra (1993), Sonata da caccia for three musicians (1993), Arcadiana for string quartet (1994), Les barricades mistérieuses for five musicians (1994), Life Story for soprano and piano (1994), The Origin of the Harp for ten musicians (1994), Cardiac Arrest for seven musicians (1995), Powder Her Face, opera (1995), Traced Overhead for piano (1996), These Premises Are Alarmed for orchestra (1996), Asyla for orchestra (1997), Concerto conciso for piano and ensemble (1997), The Fayrfax Carol for choir (1997), America for mezzo-soprano and orchestra (1999), January Writ for choir and organ (1999), Piano Quintet (2000), Brahms for baritone and orchestra (2001), The Tempest, opera (2003), Scenes from The Tempest for solo voices and orchestra (2004), Violin Concerto: Concentric Paths (2005), Court Studies from The Tempest for clarinet, violin, cello and piano (2005), Three Studies from Couperin for chamber orchestra (2006), Dances from Powder Her Face for orchestra (2007), Tevot for orchestra (2007), In Seven Days for piano and orchestra (2008), Concert Paraphrase on Powder Her Face for piano (2009), Lieux retrouvés for cello and piano (2009), Mazurkas for piano (2009), The Four Quarters for string quartet (2010), Polaris for orchestra (2010), Reveilles for trumpet and piano (2011), Thrift for piano (2011), Totentanz for mezzo-soprano, baritone and orchestra (2013).