Thursday 3 April 2014

Thomas Adès’ violin concerto makes a terrific coupling with a passionate performance of the Sibelius concerto from Augustin Hadelich on a new release from Avie

From Avie Records comes a new release that couples one of the 20th century’s finest violin concertos with a fine 21st century violin concerto. Violinist Augustin Hadelich joins Hannu Lintu  and the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra  in performances of concertos by Sibelius and Thomas Adès.


Thomas Adès (b.1971) was born in London in 1971 and studied piano with Michael Blackmore and Paul Berkowitz, composition withErika Fox and Robert Saxton and percussion at the Guildhall School of Music & Drama as well as reading music at King's College, Cambridge.

In 1993 he made his recital début as pianist and composer at the Park Lane Group in London. Between 1993 and 1995 he was Composer in Association with the Hallé Orchestra, which resulted in These Premises Are Alarmed for the opening of the Bridgewater Hall in 1996. Asyla (1997) was a Feeney Trust commission for Sir Simon Rattle and the CBSO, who toured it together, and repeated it at Symphony Hall in August 1998. Rattle subsequently programmed Asyla in his opening concert as Music Director of the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra in September 2002.

Adès’ first opera, Powder Her Face, commissioned by Almeida Opera for the Cheltenham Festival in 1995, was televised by Channel Four. Most of the composer's music to date has been recorded by EMI. Adès’ second opera, The Tempest, was commissioned by London's Royal Opera House and was premièred there in February 2004 and revived in 2007.

Adès’ music has attracted numerous awards and prizes, including the Grawemeyer Award (2000) of which he is the youngest-ever recipient. He is the only composer to have won the Royal Philharmonic Prize for Large-scale composition three times.

In September 2005 a Violin Concerto, written for Anthony Marwood, was premiered at the Berliner Festspiele and the BBC Proms, with the Chamber Orchestra of Europe conducted by the composer.

This new release from Avie is only the second recording of Adès’ Violin Concerto ‘Concentric Paths.’ In three movements, the first, Rings, opens with the soloist and orchestra playing a seemingly repetitive motif, yet it is constantly varying, creating a swirl of sound that soon becomes increasingly dramatic. There is much for the soloist to do in the opening movement that, nevertheless, does slow and quieten with some exquisite high notes from the soloist set against a deep bass chord. The music builds again in tempo, dynamics and drama to end.

A series of chords followed by pizzicato notes from the soloist with loud orchestral interruptions opens Paths. Soon the soloist’s part becomes gentler, despite the heavy orchestral interruptions. As the melody for violin becomes more agitated, the orchestra provides even greater weight in its sudden outbursts, with the violin soaring around against deep orchestral sounds pointed up by timpani. There is some terrific playing from Augustin Hadelich before the music quietens and becomes gentle in a beautiful section for orchestra. The soloist re-enters passionately before the music slowly quietens with muted brass and, against a hushed orchestra, where the violin spins a lovely theme. There are some lovely textures for the soloist as the music drops lower and quieter as it leads to the coda.

Timpani and percussion open Rounds, with strings, woodwind and brass entering in a repeated spiralling theme, soon joined by the soloist who goes on to develop the theme. The soloist is presented with new challenges as the music becomes more complex but, eventually, the music relaxes into a longer breathed melody before timpani add a threatening backdrop as the music speeds to a sudden end.

This is an extremely fine concerto that I will return to often. It received an equally fine performance from Augustin Hadelich and the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra under Hannu Lintu.

Jean Sibelius’ (1865-1957)  Violin Concerto in D minor, Op.47 dates from 1903/05 and is also in the usual three movements. Right from the beginning of the Allegro moderato, after the quiet orchestral opening, we are aware that Augustin Hadelich will provide a passionate performance. His violin tone is so full of angst, his phrasing so full of emotion. The short solo section that soon appears is full of impetus and fire. Hannu Lintu and the RLPO provide taut accompaniment with some sensitively played orchestral moments. Yet Hadelich knows how to ease back for maximum effect with some exquisite tone and timbre. There is some superb playing in the cadenza, full of fire, flair and sheer technical accomplishment. When the woodwind of the RLPO enter, they and the soloist provide a lovely texture. As the movement progresses there is some really terrific, dynamic playing from the RLPO. Hadelich continues to play with much feeling, combining emotion with moments of such pure tone before a fine coda.

There are some lovely violin timbres as the Adagio di molto proceeds with Lintu really building up the orchestral tension and drama. Yet both allow the quiet moments to reveal poetry. As the movement progresses Hadelich continues to provide much emotion and feeling before a lovely, hushed coda.

In the Allegro, ma non tanto both soloist and orchestra really pile on the forward drive in the opening with some gritty, powerful orchestral playing. Hadelich’s playing in the developing passages is extremely fine with high notes that are wonderfully done. The later stages of this movement have some wonderful things.

It is true that there is no shortage of fine performances of this concerto on disc; however, I have yet to hear one that brings quite this amount of passion from both soloist and orchestra.

Hadelich, Lintu and the orchestra finally give us three of Sibelius’ Humoresques which bring equally fine performances. Op.87 No.2 in D major is full of terrific playing, Op.89 No.2 in G minor is exquisite, with some lovely little touches and Op.89 No.3 in E flat major trots along full of style with some wonderful moments from Hadelich.

The Adès concerto makes a terrific coupling with a Hadelich’s passionate Sibelius, making altogether a very attractive new release. Andrew Keener’s recording from The Friary, Liverpool is as fine as you would expect and there are informative booklet notes.

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