Elsewhere on my Column I review Thomas Adès conducting Beethoven’s first three Symphonies together with music by Gerald Barry and a release of his own pieces including the stunning Totentanz (put Thomas Adès into Search). The latter DG issue, with the Boston Symphony, also includes Adès’s Piano Concerto with Kirill Gerstein.
The two of them have been making a charismatic duo for some years – as composer-interpreter and as duo-pianists. They feature together in Concert Paraphrase on Powder Her Face, Adès’s successful, much-travelled chamber opera, which has already spawned a couple of orchestral suites. This two-piano Paraphrase (first recording), opening with the aural equivalent of a lightning bolt, compels in every way – satisfying complexity and with it the clever integration of popular song, the suggestion of decadence as well as emotional intensity and disintegration. The pianists unravel the roulades of notes with precision and point.
Another debut in discographical terms, and also extracted from an opera, is the Berceuse from The Exterminating Angel, music that chills at first but soon grows in big-hearted if gnarled passion before sinking back to loneliness and an outburst of bitterness. Gerstein plays this with sympathy, as he does the three Mazurkas, Adès at his most mercurial.
The big piece here is the half-hour In Seven Days (2008). From ‘Chaos’ to ‘Contemplation’ – Adès in Creation mode – this seven-section concertante work is consistently diverting in terms of intriguing invention and brilliant orchestration. The pianist doesn’t enter until three-and-a-half minutes in, introduced by a stentorian orchestral outburst that I take to represent Light, Gerstein then revelling in syncopation and finger-stretching chords. In Seven Days is a dramatic and vivid score – no need for the Moving Image that is an option in performance – full of meaningful rhetoric and scenic unleashing: water, land, stars, creatures.
Suffice to say that in this concert account (30 July 2018, Seiji Ozawa Hall) Gerstein is amazing and the composer as conductor draws a suitably Biblical response from the Tanglewood Music Center Orchestra. Myrios Classics MYR027.