Out West Arts: Performance at the end of the world

Opera, music, theater, and art in Los Angeles and beyond

Instant Replay

April 10, 2010

Thomas Adès and Anthony Marwood with L.A. Philharmonic
Photo: mine 2010

To judge by the frequency of his highly regarded visits with our local orchestra, Thomas Adès loves Los Angeles. And Los Angeles loves him. Or at least I do. Even with a show he’s largely reprising from prior appearances here, his program this weekend with the L.A. Philharmonic outshines much of what has appeared at the Walt Disney Concert Hall this season. The first half of the program consisted of his own works – the overture These Premises Are Alarmed, a suite of dances from his chamber opera Powder Her Face, and his Violin Concerto. It was a brief but nice summary of Adès career so far in less than an hour of music. But virtually every note of it was pretty exciting. He’s got a flair for the dramatic and can incorporate other musical idioms into his compositions without them overwhelming the bigger project. His “dance music” from Powder Her Face is blown up here from the original chamber orchestra of the opera score to a much bigger ensemble. There is plenty of story contained in these movements far beyond the waltz and tango rhythms they ape. The music effortlessly recalls Britain in the 60s and its ability to evoke such a distinct time and place is the hallmark of a composer who knows what he’s doing. The Violin Concerto, which was played here by Anthony Marwood, as it has been from the piece’s inception, was again a lovely puzzle with the orchestration providing punctuation to the soloist’s ongoing monologue. Marwood and Adès last performed the piece here in 2006 and seeing it again under such great circumstances seems like an embarrassment of riches.

Another thing I love about Adès is his apparent respect for composers that don’t necessarily have the biggest cache of gravitas. Two seasons ago he gave us a slew of chamber works by Francois Couperin. The second half of this weekend’s program was devoted to Respighi’s Feste Romane. This is showy music meant to please with large rumbling crescendos and organ and brass for days. Adès makes no apologies for any of it, giving a lovely theatrical performance with the orchestra. It was a crowd-pleaser in the best sense of the phrase. Adès unfortunately is gone all too quickly this season after this weekend, however he plans to be back for much more extensive involvement next season. So, until then, we have this reminder of his story thus far.



Can't believe I'm going to MISS Die Feen and Das Lebesverbot. Oh well.

I hope someone's making sure Sellars brings photos or slides from the puppet Ring. I saw it at Harvard in 1979 and it was great.
I'm lucky enough to have heard Concentric Paths twice, with different orchestras, conductors, and soloists. GREAT piece.
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