Thomas Adès World Première

Thursday 30 September, 7.45pm

“I can’t describe to you how excited I am and lucky I feel to have had this work written for me. Tom’s music has meant a huge amount to me over the course of my life. To be the custodian of this new quintet, his first major chamber work since 2010, is a huge honour and privilege and I cannot wait to perform it with the fabulous Diotima quartet. It’s a brilliant addition to the (basset) clarinet repertoire.”


On 30 September, Kings Place unveils a new Clarinet Quintet – Alchymia, woven from four threads leading out of the alchemical world of Elizabethan London – by Thomas Adès, performed by dedicatees Mark Simpson and the Diotima Quartet. The commission, led by Kings Place, and supported by the Parabola Foundation in collaboration with 5 European partners – Bozar, Festival Aix-en-Provence, Milano Musica, NDR das neue werk, Muziekgebouw aan’t 1J – is one of several initiated by Kings Place since the first lockdown of March 2020. An acclaimed clarinettist and composer in his own right, this is the first of three performances focusing on Mark Simpson over the course of six months at Kings Place. The concert will also kick off Kings Place’s 2021-22 Master Series which first launched as an annual initiative in October 2018.

Marking Thomas Adès’s first major piece of chamber music since his The Four Quarters of 2010, Mark Simpson was ecstatic when he found out that Adès, whose work he has followed as far as he can remember, had agreed to write a new clarinet quintet for him. Framed on the evening by Schubert’s Sixth String Quartet in D, D. 74 and Brahms’s Clarinet Quintet in B minor, Op. 115. Simpson said when asked to describe Alchymia:

‘It is no surprise to me that the piece is called “Alchymia”. As the piece is full of all kinds of alchemical procedures that takes what seems on the surface to be simple music ideas and transmutes them into fantastic, dazzling, complex structures. Like an alchemist would turn metal into gold. The thing that excites me most about “Alchymia” is how it seems to embody Tom’s musical past, present and future. The first movement, “A Sea-Change” sits very much in the world of his present music: scalic passages woven into an intricate web of shifting string textures and then exploded through a manic process of decent towards the lowest reaches of the basset clarinet. The second, “The Woods So Wild”, strikes me as a totally fresh musical language, a Tom we haven’t heard before, a spinning moto perpetuo with shifting harmonic centres that produces a mesmeric, hypnotic effect on the listener. The third, ‘Lachrymae”, harks back to an earlier world, almost recalling the “O Albion” movement from his string quartet “Arcadiana”. Finally: “Divisions on a Lute Song (Wedekind’s Round)” is in this exciting new musical world where he seems to be reconfiguring his approach to traditional harmony.’

32-year-old Mark Simpson’s latest composition was a Violin Concerto written during lockdown for Nicola Benedetti and premièred in April with the London Symphony Orchestra and Gianandrea Noseda: “Mark Simpson’s new Violin Concerto deserves audiences far and wide. Not only the unseen online viewers on their sofas at home, but people in a concert hall, close enough to feel this music’s thrilling pulse and soak up its visceral energy.” (The Times).

The only winner to date of both BBC Young Musician of the Year and the BBC Proms/Guardian Young Composer of the Year, Simpson returns to Kings Place for his Luminate debut on 11 December in a programme of clarinet and electronics/loops featuring world premières and contemporary classics by Steve Reich and Jonathan Harvey, and on 20 February 2022 when he will be joined by cellist Leonard Elschenbroich and pianist Richard Uttley for clarinet trios by Beethoven, Brahms and his own work Echoes and Embers.