Thomas Adès: Wikis


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Thomas Adès (born in London, 1 March 1971) is a British composer, pianist and conductor.

Adès studied piano with Paul Berkowitz and later composition with Robert Saxton at Guildhall School of Music and Drama, London. After attending University College School, he achieved a double starred first in 1992 at King's College, Cambridge, studying with Alexander Goehr and Robin Holloway. He was made Britten Professor of Composition at the Royal Academy of Music, and in 2004 was given an honorary doctorate by the University of Essex.

In 2007 a retrospective festival of his work was presented at the Barbican Arts Centre in London and he was the focus of Radio France's annual contemporary music festival, "Présences" and Helsinki's "Ultimo" festival. The Barbican festival, "Traced Overhead: The Musical World of Thomas Adès", included the UK premiere of a new work for Simon Rattle and the Berlin Philharmonic, Tevot. In Spring 2007, The Tempest returned to the Royal Opera House. In 2009, he was the focus of Stockholm Concert Hall's annual Composer Festival.

In 2006, he entered a civil partnership with the British filmmaker and graphic artist Tal Rosner.[1]



See also List of compositions by Thomas Adès

Orchestral compositions and performances

  • Five Eliot Landscapes, Adès's first opus, was published in 1990.

In 1993, at the age of twenty-two, Adès gave his first public piano recital in London as part of the Park Lane Group series of recitals.

Adès conducted the BBC Symphony Orchestra in the London premiere of the work while, on September 7, 2002, Simon Rattle gave his first concert as principal conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra with Asyla and Gustav Mahler's Symphony No. 5, both of which have also been released on CD and DVD by EMI. Asyla has since been performed across the world, including on a recent tour of the Far East by Rattle and the Berlin Philharmonic.

  • Arcadiana, a seven-movement, 20-minute string quartet (Op. 12), was recorded in 1998 along with other work from the 1993 to 1994 period.
  • America: a Prophecy was commissioned for the New York Philharmonic Orchestra's Millennium Messages in November 1999 and it received its UK premiere at the Aldeburgh Festival in June 2000. A recording of the work is available on EMI Classics (2004).


  • Powder Her Face, Adès's 1995 chamber opera with a libretto by Philip Hensher, won both good reviews and notoriety for its musical depiction of fellatio. The opera was commissioned by Almeida Opera, and has since been given new productions by chamber opera groups around the world. The Duchess depicted in the opera is the notorious Margaret Campbell, Duchess of Argyll whose scandalous behaviour in Britain in the early 1960s was revealed during her divorce trial with the introduction into evidence of photographs of her various sexual acts. Adès's "Concert Paraphrase" on Power Her Face for solo piano was premièred by the composer for the Vancouver Recital Society on March 14 2010 in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada; the work was co-commissioned by the VRS, San Francisco Performances, and the Barbican Centre in London.
  • The Tempest, with a libretto by Meredith Oakes adapted from Shakespeare's play, was premièred to critical acclaim at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden in February 2004, followed by productions at the Strasbourg Opera and the Copenhagen Opera House later in 2005. Its US premiere staging by the Santa Fe Opera took place on 29 July 2006. The opera was revived by Covent Garden in March 2007 to great acclaim. The Frankfurt Opera production, staged by Keith Warner and conducted by Johannes Debus, is scheduled for 10 January 2010, and marks the first performance of this opera in Germany[2]. In March 2008, The Metropolitan Opera announced plans to perform The Tempest in their 2012-13 season.[3]

Other musical activities

Adès was the first Music Director of the Birmingham Contemporary Music Group from 1998 to 2000.[4] He served as Artistic Director of the Aldeburgh Festival from 1999 to 2008; he was succeeded in 2009 by the pianist Pierre-Laurent Aimard.

In 2000, he was composer-in-residence of the Ojai Festival in California (along with Mark-Anthony Turnage). While there, performances included:

  • The U.S. West Coast premiere of "Asyla," with Sir Simon Rattle conducting the Los Angeles Philharmonic
  • "Darkness Visible" and "Still Sorrowing" performed by pianist Gloria Cheng
  • "These Premises are Alarmed" conducted by Rattle with the Los Angeles Philharmonic

He is also a noted pianist, having been a runner-up in the BBC's Young Musician of the Year competition in 1990. EMI has released a CD of Adès as a solo performer called "Thomas Adès: Piano" and several CDs as an accompanist, frequently with Ian Bostridge, Steven Isserlis and others. As a student Adès was a percussionist; he is noted for having played percussion in Stravinsky's "Les Noces" under Sir Simon Rattle.

He was resident with the Los Angeles Philharmonic during their 2005/6 and 2006/7 seasons as part of the orchestra's "On Location" series at Walt Disney Concert Hall and other locations. Performances included:

  • Adès conducting the U.S. premiere (co-commissioned by the Los Angeles Philharmonic and the Berlin Festival) of the Violin Concerto, performed by Anthony Marwood, along with selections of "The Tempest".
  • Chamber concerts with L.A. Philharmonic musicians with Adès at the piano in pieces by Schubert and Beethoven.
  • Chamber concerts of music for piano and violin by Stravinsky, with Adès at the piano and Anthony Marwood on violin at the Doheny Mansion for the Da Camera Society of Mount St. Mary's College.
  • Adès conducting a Los Angeles Philharmonic New Music Group "Green Umbrella" concert featuring Piano Quintet (U.S. West Coast premiere), Origin of the Harp (U.S. premiere), and Chamber Symphony, Opus 2 (U.S. West Coast premiere), plus "Scenes from a Novel" by György Kurtág (Elizabeth Keusch, soprano soloist) and "Cantus Planus" by Niccolo Castiglioni.
  • "Powder Her Face" with the USC Thornton Opera and members of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, at the Bing Theater on the campus of the University of Southern California, conducted by Adès, with stage direction by Ken Cazan, set design by Peter Harrison, and lighting design by David Jacques.
  • A chamber music programme featuring Adès on the piano with members of the Los Angeles Philharmonic in a programme that included Jean Françaix's "Trio for Oboe, Bassoon, and Piano," "Nell'ombra, nella luce" by Steven Stucky, and the "Piano Quintet No. 2" of Gabriel Fauré
  • Adès conducting a Green Umbrella programme featuring the U.S. premiere of Gerald Barry’s "The Triumph of Beauty and Deceit."
  • Adès conducting "Asyla" with the Los Angeles Philharmonic

Adès, who frequently performs works by Leoš Janáček, contributed an essay titled "'Nothing but pranks and puns': Janáček's solo piano music" to Paul Wingfield's compilation entitled Janáček Studies, published in 2006 by the Cambridge University Press.



  • Powder Her Face was made into a film by Channel 4 and shown on Christmas Day 1999 in the UK. The film was released on DVD in the UK for Christmas 2005, including a documentary film about Adès made by Gerald Fox at around the same time. It is also available in the US.
  • Asyla (along with Mahler's 5th Symphony) formed Sir Simon Rattle's opening concert with the Berlin Philharmonic. The two concerts given were recorded and released as a DVD in 2002.

Audio CD as composer

  • Life Story (1997)
  • Living Toys (1998)
  • Asyla (1999)
  • Powder Her Face (1999)
  • America (2004)
  • Adès/Schubert: Piano Quintets (2005)
  • Violin Concerto (2007), download release.
  • The Tempest (2009)
  • Tevot, Violin Concerto, Three Studies from Couperin, Dances from Powder Her Face (2010)

as performer


  • In Seven Days
  • Lieux Retrouvés


  • Inverne, James, "A Most Auspicious Star", New York: Opera News, May 2005
  • Mays, Desirée, "The Tempest" in Opera Unveiled, 2006, Santa Fe,New Mexico: Art Forms Inc, 2006
  • Whittall, Arnold. 2001. "Adès, Thomas (Joseph Edmund)". The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, second edition, edited by Stanley Sadie and John Tyrrell. London: Macmillan Publishers.

External links

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