This month, Thomas Adès leads the Concertgebouworkest in the Dutch premiere of his Piano Concerto. The soloist is internationally renowned pianist Kirill Gerstein who plays a special version of Liszt’s Totentanz as well. The concert also features the first Dutch performance of Veronika Krausas’ Caryatids, and Igor Stravinsky’s Symphony in Three Movements.
Thomas Adès, “One of the most accomplished and complete musicians of his generation” according to The New York Times, wrote his Piano Concerto for Kirill Gerstein on commission from the Boston Symphony Orchestra. Adès rose to international recognition in 1995 with his first opera Powder her Face, going on to win a Grawemeyer Award for his orchestral work Asyla in 1999, and many subsequent awards and honours since. His operas, The Tempest and The Exterminating Angel, his Violin Concerto and his string quartets have all received acclaim from both critics and audiences, with The Exterminating Angel having won World Premier of the Year in 2017.
As a conductor, Adès first led the Concertgebouworkest in 1995, and has appeared with major orchestras such as the Los Angeles Philharmonic, San Francisco Symphony, the Czech Philharmonic and the symphony orchestras of Boston, London, Melbourne, Sydney, BBC and City of Birmingham. He has led performances of Stravinsky’s The Rake’s Progress at the opera houses of London and Zurich, and The Tempest in New York and Vienna, and served as artistic director of the Aldeburgh Festival from 1999 to 2008. Thomas Adès was also the first-ever artistic partner of the Boston Symphony Orchestra during the 2016-17 season.
The premiere performance of Adès’ Piano Concerto took place at Symphony Hall in Boston on 7th March, 2019, with Adès himself leading the Boston Symphony Orchestra and pianist Kirill Gerstein. This was followed by a Carnegie Hall concert two weeks later, and the European premiere was given by the Gewandhausorchester in Leipzig on April 25 and 26, 2019. Gerstein says that the Concerto calls for “piano playing on a grand scale”, describing it as “very virtuosic”. According to the Boston Classical Review, it recalls “…. Rachmaninoff’s much lusher concertos”, going on to say that “The effect is mesmerizing, and the Concerto for Piano and Orchestra stands as Adès’ greatest achievement to date”. The New York Times writes: “The craft is astounding, the orchestration ceaselessly brilliant. The voice is wholly his own”.
Kirill Gerstein appears in both solo and concert engagements in Europe, the United States, East Asia and Australia, with a wide-ranging repertoire which spans composers from Bach to Adès. Highlights of this 2022-23 season include performances of Rachmaninov’s Second Piano Concerto with the London Philharmonic and the St Louis Symphony, and Schumann’s Piano Concerto with The Cleveland Orchestra, the City of Birmingham Symphony and the New York Philharmonic, the music of Berg with the Dresden Philharmonic and Rachmaninov’s Third Piano Concerto with the Tokyo Metropolitan Symphony.
In recital, Gerstein and violinist Christian Tetzlaff will present a new work written for them by Thomas Adès and commissioned by the Kronberg Academy and the Wigmore Hall. With violinist Tabea Zimmerman he will be touring Europe with music by Brahms, Hindemith, Clarke and Shostakovich, he will appear with Stefan Door with music by Brahms and Ligeti, and will also perform a solo recital as part of the Concertgebouw’s Great Pianists Series playing works by Stravinsky, Schubert and Liszt.
The concert opens with Caryatids by Veronika Krausas, of whom The Globe & Mail in Toronto writes: “…her works, whose organic, lyrical sense of storytelling are supported by a rigid formal elegance, give her audiences a sense that nature’s frozen objects are springing to life”. A caryatid is
an architectural column of a standing female figure, each of which in this work is represented by a chord, interspersed with what the composer describes as “… a series of Baroque-like dances, or my interpretation of a bourrée, a gigue, and a sarabande”. The work was commissioned by the Detroit Symphony Orchestra and premiered on May 8, 2021, at the Orchestra Hall Jader Bignamini, named after the Music Director of the Symphony.
The final work is Igor Stravinsky’s Symphony in Three Movements – described on The Listeners’ Club as “…. a delirious celebration of rhythm”. It was written between 1942 and 1945 – the first work which Stravinsky completed after his emigration to America. The Symphony – which incorporates various concepts for failed film music projects – was inspired by television and documentary footage of the Second World War. “Each episode in the Symphony” said the composer, “is linked in my imagination with a specific cinematographic impression of the war”. The Symphony in Three Movements was commissioned by the New York Philharmonic, and premiered at Carnegie Hall on January 24, 1946, with the composer conducting.
Thomas Adès leads the Concertgebouworkest in his own Piano Concerto, with soloist Kirill Gerstein, and works by Veronika Krausas and Igor Stravinsky at Het Concertgebouw on 8th and 9th December. Further information is available on the Concertgebouworkest website, and tickets may be reserved online.