“Adès makes you hear things with which you thought you were familiar as if they were completely new” (Tom Service, The Guardian) This is the first release marking the culmination of the Britten Sinfonia's three-year Beethoven Symphony Cycle, with Thomas Adès as director and conductor. Adès interleaves Beethoven’s masterworks with the audacious and sometimes explosive music of the wonderfully idiosyncratic Irish composer, Gerald Barry, exploring these monuments of the orchestral repertoire. This release combines Beethoven's first 3 symphonies with two works by Barry: His 'Piano Concerto' was composed for pianist Nicolas Hodges, and blends his characteristic musical zeal and unconventionality (featuring a percussion section of wind machines and bass drum). Gerald Barry’s setting of Beethoven's famous "Immortal Beloved" text is among several of his works surrounding the life of Beethoven, whom he deeply admires. Despite the desperate tone of the letter, the music is buoyant and cheerful, with references to Beethoven’s own Music. The composer writers: "The letter to the so-called “Immortal Beloved” is the only real love letter to survive from Ludwig van Beethoven. It’s one of the strangest ever written. It more or less says I love and long for you but it’s not possible. The letter is a confusion of longing and desperation, a cry for forgiveness, that she not abandon him, whatever his inability.’ (Gerald Barry)
Adès tackles the “Eroica” in a blazing performance, very energetic but not lacking in affection. He has the horns and trumpets ring out with great presence and his dynamic range is good. The timpani also make their presence known, but are not overdone. Adès takes the exposition repeat—something I am now getting used to, though do not find particularly necessary. The horn solo in the recapitulation is quite ravishing.
Barry’s Piano Concerto is in a single movement and apparently a piece of theatre with the piano and orchestra opposing each other. They only occasionally play together in the concerto’s nearly 23-minute length. I do not sense a readily discernable structure to this work, though it does not lack interest and contains sufficient humour if not downright silliness. Nicolas Hodges, for whom the concerto was composed, plays it to the hilt.
– MusicWeb International