Thomas Adès’s Concerto for Piano and Orchestra, a conscious title of equal billing, premiered in 2019 (see link below), and his Totentanz (first heard at the BBC Proms in 2013) are captured from Boston Symphony concerts in excellent performances (Adès is a fine conductor … and pianist for that matter) and vivid sound.
The Concerto, written for Kirill Gerstein, who relishes the solo part, is fascinatingly quixotic, not only attractively unpredictable but leaning, in judicious mix, to the Romantic and the Classical (the latter in terms of clarity and being in three concise movements) with a hint of Gershwin (Second Rhapsody) in the first movement. The slow one is sadly expressive and becomes anguished in its climax, whereas the Finale comes across as an off-kilter dance, initially of clockwork energy that winds down and which is then restored and leads to a scintillating conclusion.
Totentanz (Dance of Death) sets an anonymous fifteenth-century German text “from drinking song to the inevitably of death” and mirrors Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde in its journey; two singers further aid such a comparison, here Mark Stone (baritone) & Christianne Stotijn (mezzo), both impressive. Totentanz is terrific, notable, gripping throughout its thirty-five-minute continuous span, intense and dramatic, singers, orchestra and listeners allowed no respite until a communicative and ethereal beauty settles on the score halfway through, if without quashing the already-evident passion until things become skeletal in texture and accepting in outlook; musically rapturous. Great to have Totentanz recorded. The booklet includes the German text and an English translation. Available on Deutsche Grammophon 483 7998.