Adès: Lieux Retrouvés

Program Note

Thomas Adés wrote Lieux Retrouves for the cellist Steven Isserlis, who gives his comments on the piece:

Lieux retrouvés—what can one say about this extraordinary work? Not only can Adès’s work as a whole not be categorized, even this piece cannot be pigeon-holed in any way. He takes influences from everywhere—from Offenbach, from jazz, from the French baroque, even from minimalism—and creates his own individual language within this one composition. The opening depicts the calm of still water—water that then muddies and swirls before again relaxing and expanding into a crashing wave. The second movement portrays mountaineers as well as mountains, their footsteps crunching on the paths. The movement functions as a scherzo, with a trio section representing particularly hardy climbers, yodelling as they trudge. I was a bit worried by the dramatic end of this movement, concerned that a mountaineer had fallen off the mountain; but I was reassured to learn that it represented merely the defiant planting of a flag. The slow movement takes us to a peaceful field at night, the animals at rest, their breath rising to heaven (rather riskily represented by the highest notes I’ve ever had to play lyrically). The finale is best described by its subtitle, “Cancan macabre”; all brilliant lights, flirtatious naughtiness and grotesque over-excitement. “A romp”, as the composer innocently described it before he dared send me the music…

—Steven Isserlis

Born in London in 1971, Thomas Adès studied piano and composition with Paul Berkowitz and Erika Fox at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. When he was 17, he spent a year studying chamber music with György Kurtág in Hungary and went on to read music at King’s College, Cambridge. Between 1993 and 1995, Adés was Composer in Association with the Hallé Orchestra, and from 1999 to 2008 he was Artistic Director of the Aldeburgh Festival.

Adès’s first opera, Powder Her Face, was commissioned by Almeida Opera for the 1995 Cheltenham Festival, and his second opera, The Tempest, commissioned by the Royal Opera House, was premiered in 2004. One of Adès’s largest-scale works, Asyla (1997), was commissioned for Sir Simon Rattle and the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra. The work won the Grawemeyer Award, of which the composer was the youngest-ever recipient, in 2000. In 2005, his violin concerto, Concentric Paths, written for Anthony Marwood, was premiered at the Berliner Festspiele and performed at the BBC Proms. His second orchestral work for Simon Rattle, Tevot (2007), was commissioned by the Berlin Philharmonic and Carnegie Hall. Other works include a “piano concerto with moving image” entitled In Seven Days (2008)—a collaboration with the video artist Tal Rosner—as well as Totentanz for mezzo-soprano, baritone and orchestra (2013), Blanca Variations (2015)  for piano solo, and an orchestral arrangement of Lieux retrouvés premiered this year by Steven Isserlis.

His many conducting engagements include an appearance at the 2008 BBC Proms with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, and productions of The Rake’s Progress at the Royal Opera House in London and the Zurich Opera. He has regular conducting engagements with orchestras including the Boston Symphony and Royal Concertgebouw. Recent piano engagements include solo recitals at Carnegie Hall (Stern Auditorium) and the Barbican in London, and concerto appearances with the New York Philharmonic.