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Adès: America: A Prophecy


Release Date: 02/24/2004 
Label:  Emi Classics   Catalog #: 57610   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Thomas AdèsFrançois CouperinChristopher Foreman
Performer:  Susan BickleyClaron McFaddenChristopher Bowers-BroadbentRobin Blaze,   ... 
Conductor:  Thomas AdèsStephen Layton
Orchestra/Ensemble:  City of Birmingham Symphony OrchestraCity of Birmingham ChoirComposers Ensemble,   ... 
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 0 Mins. 

CD not available: This title is currently only available as an MP3 download.  

This CD is reissued by ArkivMusic.

Notes and Editorial Reviews

Adès draws on a range of influences, from the long tradition of English medieval and Renaissance polyphony to jazz to rock to minimalism, and combines it all into something new and rather wonderful.

This is my introduction to the work of Thomas Adès (b. 1971). It is said that Stravinsky once observed that “talent borrows, genius steals.” By that he no doubt meant that while all artists are a compendium of their influences, those possessed of genius make what they have taken from others uniquely their own. This seems a fair description of Adès. He draws on a range of influences, from the long tradition of English medieval and Renaissance polyphony to jazz to rock to minimalism, and combines it with
Read more the extravagant lyricism and harmonic freedom of late Tippet. Somewhat like James McMillan, whom he resembles in the extravagance of his utterance, he combines all these strains into something new and rather wonderful.

This disc centers around his two millennium commissions, America, a Prophecy, op. 19, for mezzo, chorus, and orchestra, written for the New York Philharmonic, and January Writ for chorus and organ, written for Temple Church. America, a Prophecy must have seemed a rather cold bath at the end of 1999, with its texts meditating on the destruction of the Mayan civilization by the Spanish conquistadors. The mezzo (the amazing Susan Bickley here in her early-music mode of vibratoless intensity) sings a text in English recounting events while the interjections of the chorus are in Latin and Spanish, based on Spanish music from the time of the Mayan conquest. Both intensely lyrical and harmonically free, the work is a riot of sharply contrasting colors. It is, of course, especially chilling in light of the events that followed the premiere 22 months to the day, when finally nobody was safe. By contrast, January Writ draws specifically on the miracles of English polyphony in music that is both radiant and soberly moving.

The rest of the choral music, a setting of The Fayrfax Carol, Fool’s Rhymes setting excerpts form the sermons of John Donne in a collage of English and Latin nonsense poetry, and the full anthem, Oh thou who didst with pitfall and with gin is equally fine. The tiny song cycle for countertenor and piano, The Lover in Winter, manages to be entirely up to date even as it evokes, again, the long tradition of Renaissance and Baroque English song. Brahms, on the other hand, is a setting for baritone and orchestra of a poem by the pianist Alfred Brendel as part of the celebrations of his seventieth birthday. The poem is an amusing evocation of a spectral visit by Brahms and his eternal cigar. The music is extravagance itself.

Yet another facet comes with the long song for soprano and chamber ensemble, Life Story, and the two arrangements, one of a ska song and the other of the famous Couperin harpsichord piece, Life Story, setting a poem by Tennessee Williams on what it is like to attempt to establish human contact after the physical intimacy in a one-night stand; Adès specifically draws on the manner of very late Billy Holiday, casting his soprano in a classical rethinking of that weary voice of experience and bitterness. It is a powerful work sung to perfection by Claron McFadden, but it must be said that all the performances are extraordinary. As mentioned earlier, Susan Bickley demonstrates her versatility again, effectively impersonating the world’s butchest boy soprano. The fine baritone Christopher Maltman adds to his reputation as a singing actor. Robyn Blaze dances the fine line between the somewhat archaic sound of the counter-tenor and the power of the modern concert singer beautifully. Polyphony has long been known for its excellence in difficult music and only enhances its reputation here. Adès himself has demonstrated his gifts as a pianist on Ian Bostridge’s extraordinary version of Janá?ek’s Diary of One Who Vanished. He is equally adept as a conductor. The recorded sound, from a variety of venues, is both perfect for the music and perfectly matched. This is a remarkable achievement that deserves the highest recommendation.

-- John Story, FANFARE
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Works on This Recording

1. America - A Prophecy, Op. 19 by Thomas Adès
Performer:  Susan Bickley (Mezzo Soprano)
Conductor:  Thomas Adès
Orchestra/Ensemble:  City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra,  City of Birmingham Choir
Period: 20th Century 
Written: England 
Date of Recording: 03/2002 
Venue:  Symphony Hall, Birmingham, England 
Length: 15 Minutes 39 Secs. 
Language: English 
2. Pièces de clavecin, Book 2: Ordre 6 in B flat major - Les baricades mistérieuses by François Couperin
Conductor:  Thomas Adès
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Composers Ensemble
Period: Baroque 
Written: by 1717; Paris, France 
Date of Recording: 2003 
Venue:  LSO St. Luke's, London, England 
Length: 2 Minutes 43 Secs. 
Notes: Arranged: Thomas Adès 
3. Life Story, Op. 8b by Thomas Adès
Performer:  Claron McFadden (Soprano)
Conductor:  Thomas Adès
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Composers Ensemble
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1994 
Date of Recording: 2003 
Venue:  LSO St. Luke's, London, England 
Length: 7 Minutes 56 Secs. 
Language: English 
4. The Fayrfax Carol by Thomas Adès
Conductor:  Stephen Layton
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Polyphony
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1997; England 
Date of Recording: 02/2003 
Venue:  Temple Church, London, England 
Length: 4 Minutes 2 Secs. 
Language: English 
5. January Writ by Thomas Adès
Performer:  Christopher Bowers-Broadbent (Organ)
Conductor:  Stephen Layton
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Polyphony
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1999; England 
Date of Recording: 02/2003 
Venue:  Temple Church, London, England 
Length: 6 Minutes 14 Secs. 
Language: English 
6. The Lover in Winter by Thomas Adès
Performer:  Robin Blaze (Countertenor), Richard Watkins (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1989; England 
Date of Recording: 2003 
Venue:  LSO St. Luke's, London, England 
Length: 5 Minutes 40 Secs. 
Language: English 
7. Brahms, Op. 21 by Thomas Adès
Performer:  Christopher Maltman (Baritone)
Conductor:  Thomas Adès
Orchestra/Ensemble:  City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: England 
Date of Recording: 03/2002 
Venue:  Symphony Hall, Birmingham, England 
Length: 4 Minutes 2 Secs. 
Language: German 
8. O thou who didst with pitfall and gin, Op. 3a by Thomas Adès
Conductor:  Stephen Layton
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Polyphony
Period: 20th Century 
Written: England 
Date of Recording: 02/2003 
Venue:  LSO St. Luke's, London, England 
Length: 4 Minutes 40 Secs. 
Language: English 
9. Fool's Rhymes, Op. 5 by Thomas Adès
Performer:  Christopher Bowers-Broadbent (Organ), Richard Benjafield (Percussion), Hugh Webb (Harp),
Tom Poster (Piano)
Conductor:  Stephen Layton
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Polyphony
Period: 20th Century 
Written: England 
Date of Recording: 02/2003 
Venue:  Temple Church, London, England 
Length: 4 Minutes 24 Secs. 
Language: English 
10. Cardiac Arrest by Christopher Foreman
Conductor:  Thomas Adès
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Composers Ensemble
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1982/1995; USA 
Date of Recording: 2003 
Venue:  LSO St. Luke's, London, England 
Length: 2 Minutes 39 Secs. 
Notes: This work was composed in collaboration with Cathal Smyth.
Arranged: Thomas Adès 

Sound Samples

America: Part I Oh my nation prepare...
America: Part II Burn, burn, burn
The Fayrfax Carol
Fool's Rhymes: Supernat'ral light...
Fool's Rhymes: We're all in the dumps...
January Writ
O thou who didst with pitfall and with gin
The Lover in Winter: Iam nocet frigus teneris
The Lover in Winter: Nec limpha caret alveus
The Lover in Winter: Modo frigescit quidquid est
The Lover in Winter: Nutritur ignis osculo
Life Story
Cardiac Arrest
Les Baricades Mistérieuses
Brahms

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