Born in 1971, British composer Thomas Adès has rapidly gained an international standing as one of the most exciting voices among the newest generation of composers. His debut release, Life Story, revealed an amazing facility for experimenting with sonic colors, while the 1997 opera Powder Her Face--a polystylistic amalgam of savage comedy and tragic pathos--grabbed attention as a work of stunningly effective theatricality. The music gathered on this disc ranges from early works when Adès was still considered a composer of "promise" to more recent ones that announce a full-fledged artist. The Chamber Symphony involves a jaunty, coloristic interplay between basset clarinet and an unconventional ensemble in which the other instruments become, according to Adès, "infected with the personality of the solo instrument." "...but all shall be well" (the title from Eliot's "Four Quartets") traces an up-and-down theme through a sonic garden of delights, while "These Premises Are Alarmed" sets off a firecracker of phosphorescent virtuosity. But the centerpiece here is the title symphony for a Mahler-sized orchestra plus three pianos. "Asyla" covers a vast terrain in its 22 minutes, playing up the doubleness of its name (Latin plural of "asylum") with a chaotic exuberance of fragmented colors (hints of both Stravinsky and Ligeti), from a paranoically obsessive bedlam to the free-spirited refuge attained in the finale movement. Simon Rattle vibrantly delineates both Adès's brilliant orchestral imagination and his command of structural design. The wide-ranging "Asyla" makes a fascinating contrast with "Concerto Conciso," an implosive pocket piano concerto featuring the composer as soloist. Typically, Adès scores for an unusual ensemble of sax, strings, brass, and percussion and plays them off each other with an energetic array of cross-rhythms. Like "Asyla," this is music so rich it needs several hearings to fathom. And it's clearly the work of a composer to whom attention must be paid. --Thomas May
NR (Not Rated)
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