Sunday, June 22, 2008


I'm pleased to see that Sam Wollaston of The Guardian also liked the Berlin Philharmonic programme the other night: "The Berlin Philharmonic is like one of those amazing swarming flocks of starlings, made up of individuals yet able to suddenly morph into a single being, with one brain, operating in extraordinary telepathic unity. Except that they make a nicer noise than starlings. A flock of nightingales then, if such a thing existed."

What pleasantly surprised me was his predilection for Adès (pictured). As soon as I saw the composer's name, I expected the usual "modern music is noise" stuff which you even get from savvy media people these days - those who pride themselves on their cultured taste in theatre and literature, but for whom the world of music ended in the nineteenth century or with the arrival of rock'n'roll. Sam, however, writes: "The Thomas Adès piece they play is eerie and beautiful, and looks fiendishly difficult to play, even for these guys. Then, when they play Beethoven, you can see them relax; they could do this all day, with their eyes closed. They don't even need Sir Simon, who goes and sits down in the auditorium."

The composition concerned, by the way, was Asyla, which was premiered in Symphony Hall, Birmingham in October 1997 by Simon Rattle's previous outfit, the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra at the 1997 BBC Proms. I was there, I'm gratified to say. This work also received the Grawemeyer Award for Music Composition in 2000, making Adès the youngest ever to receive that prize.

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