On May 30 Thomas Adès conducted the world premiere of The Tempest Symphony, a 22-minute orchestral work based on material from his 2004 opera. It was performed by the London Philharmonic Orchestra at the Kulturpalast as part of the Dresden Music Festival. The “Storm Suite” was co-commissioned by the Dresdner Musikfestspiele (for the London Philharmonic Orchestra) and Cleveland Orchestra.

The Cleveland Orchestra will give the US premiere of the work on 30 March 2023 at Severance Hall, Cleveland, conducted by the composer. Adès will conduct the UK premiere of The Tempest Symphony with the LPO on 22 February 2023, at London’s Southbank Centre. Tickets and details available here.

Unlike in the opera – which begins with a momentary, crystalline glimpse of the still sea before the onset of the storm – here the tumult is whipped up from the very first bar.

The second movement takes us to Act I scene 3, where Ariel reports on the shipwrecked, now brought ashore and restored. Here the woodwind take up her strident and acrobatic vocal lines. 

Next, we are transported to Act II scene 4, where Ferdinand is facing a future of imprisonment on the island but is comforted by the thought of Miranda. She expresses her feelings for him, and he reciprocates, breaking Prospero’s spell. The scene ends with Prospero’s realisation – here taken up by the cello: “Miranda, I’ve lost her / I cannot rule their minds / My child has conquered me / A Stronger power than me has set the young man free.” 

The fourth movement moves to Act III scene 2, where Ariel causes a strange feast to appear to Sebastian and Gonzalo, which the latter sees as a gift from heaven. His subsequent soliloquy, “If I were King of such a land as this…” is here taken up by a solo tuba.

In his book of conversations with Tom Service Full of Noises, Adès describes how “Prospero’s relationship with the island is a metaphor for somebody who is cut off from his own life, cannot assume his role. First, he was usurped from Milan; but the island isn’t his either. The island is basically a kind of depression, and he has to make everybody else suffer it in order to dig his way out, because he has to prove to himself the redundancy of his power.” In the final movement of the suite, we are taken to the closing pages of Adès’ opera, where Prospero resolves to relinquish his magic, breaks his staff and loses his power as Ariel vanishes. Caliban is left alone on the island and in the final bars of the suite we hear the distant calls of Ariel, taken up by the oboes.

The Tempest Symphony was performed alongside Adès’ 2008 In Seven Days for piano and orchestra, with Nicholas Hodges as soloist. In Seven Days will be performed again this summer on 20 August at the Lucerne Festival, with Kirill Gerstein as soloist and Elena Schwarz conducting, accompanied by video by Tal Rosner.