Tuesday, February 17, 2015

A look at the music of Thomas Ades; will Amazon Cloud replace conventional record and CD collecting?

I tried the Amazon Cloud purchase again today, to get familiar with the music of British composer Thomas Ades, born in 1971. 
One of the more substantial offerings had two major and two smaller works. In general, the music is rather sunny, and temperate in its modernism, and generally quite accessible. 
It started with the 22-minute “Tevot” with Simon Rattle and the Seattle Symphony, which the composer describes as a one movement symphony.  It seems inspired by the model of the Liszt or Strauss tone poem. The title of the piece could refer to Noah’s ark, or to the cradle that held Moses.  It is somewhat lush at times and rather tonal, centered around A, ending in a loud chord that dies away.

There follows the Violin Concerto with Anthony Marwood and the Chamber Orchestra of Europe. The work is in three lean movements:  Rings, Paths and Rounds.  (Debussy had used similar titles for his "Images" and I think Berg used these sorts of names for his Three Pieces for Orchestra.)   The work is also called “Concentric Paths”.  The work is about 20 minutes, with the second movement the most substantial, as a kind of animated slow movement.  The music is rather lean.  It starts in G and seems to end in F, in lively fashion.

It’s nice to hear a new violin concerto.  I do know  another violinist in the LGBT community, but as an avocation, but any new violin concerto does remind me of the tragedy of Tyler Clementi in 2010. 
There follows the Three Studies after Courperin, which sound Renaissance just and lightweight (again, Chamber Orchestra of Europe).

The last offering is Three Dances from “Powder Her Face”, a chamber opera published in 1995.  Ades, himself a pianist, also wrote a piano paraphrase of the opera, inspired by similar adaptations by Liszt. The opera, described in Wikipedia, seems to summarize the composition styles of many prominent 20th Century composers. 
The New York Philharmonic recently (in 2012) performed the work “Polaris” (piano and orchestra), NYTimes writeup here. His “Totentanz” will be performed by the New York Philharmonic in March 2015.
There is a 2010 UK performance of “Polaris” on YouTube.  While the title refers to the North Star, I somehow think of the movie “Solaris”.  The sound is a bit impressionistic. Note the triplets over the ground bass.  There is a lot of repetition, but a big ending in the key of A.  
There is another chamber opera “Lilies”, being developed in Belgium, based on a French-Canadian based on the Bouchard play and 1996 film;  I think it will probably eventually appear in the US, details here

As for Amazon cloud purchase, I’ve wondered if indeed it can replace conventional record and CD collecting.  You don’t have to keep and drag around a physical inventory every time you relocate.  Amazon is rather awkward in the various ways it lists the “songs”, “artists” and “genres” you have purchased.  What I need to see is something sortable by composer and then also by performer.  Back in the 1960s, I (and a friend) would keep track of what we had by composer on 3x5 or 4x6 cards, the way you were taught to make notes for term papers in English class.  Amazon includes your real world CD or DVD purchases in its display of your collection.  

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