Thomas Adès

Piano Quintet - 2000

Piano Quintet

Instrumentation

pno - 2 vln.vla.vlc

Programme Notes

Piano Quintet

Thomas Adès' single-movement Piano Quintet was commissioned by the Melbourne Festival for the Arditti Quartet, who gave the world premiere with Adès himself as pianist on October 29 2001. The piece is cast in a relatively strict sonata form. For a composer whose music has transfigured tangos, distorted dance music, and warped waltzes, this engagement with the classical tradition seems surprisingly unmediated. Perhaps the most potent emblem of this classicism is that the work's exposition is marked to be repeated, and even includes first- and second-time bars. And yet, as with so many of Adès' pieces, everything is not as it seems. Although the structural outline may be familiar, the design and treatment of the thematic material, and the proportions of the whole twenty-minute piece, are anything but conventional.

The themes of the Quintet are recognisably tonal, and are closely related to one another in their melodic contours. But these simple building-blocks are the starting-points for rich and intricate processes of transformation. The long exposition is full of subtle metrical juxtapositions, with the piano and string quartet often playing in different time-signatures simultaneously. Yet this is not simply a pitting of various pulses against one another. The piece superimposes conventional and unconventional time signatures, for example 3/5, 4/6, or 2/7 (divisions based on quintuplets, sextuplets, and septuplets, as opposed to crotchets and quavers). This is a dividing of time which creates a disorienting sense that the music is continually shifting in and out of temporal focus. In this exposition, tempo is a relative, volatile force, rather than a fixed pulse.

Time is again the issue in the later stages of the quartet. However, instead of the localised flux and flow of the exposition, the recapitulation is concerned with a different, larger scale. After the extremes of the central development section, the recapitulation is a gigantic accelerando which speeds up to four times the original speed, and generates enormous, seemingly unstoppable momentum. The effect is of a dramatic and temporal compression: it is as if the whole work were squeezed into this musical black hole. Recapitulation in the Quintet is a metaphor for transformation as well as return. The themes may be the same, but they become actors in a new, epic drama.

So the sonata form of the Piano Quintet is neither a set of arbitrary structural props, nor a

neo-classical framing device. Instead, the architecture of the piece grows out of the transformations of its material. And in re-staging the challenges of sonata form, the Piano Quintet does not just articulate a contemporary creative perspective: it represents a vivid reimagination of the musical past.

Tom Service

Recordings

Upcoming Performances

  • October 23-24 2014
    DanceXchange, Birmingham, United Kingdom
    Alexander Whitley Dance Company
  • October 30-31, November 1 2014
    Sadler's Wells Theatre, London, United Kingdom
    Britten Sinfonia, Claire Booth, Royal Ballet of Flanders, Thomas Gould
  • November 2 2014
    Saffron Hall, Saffron Walden, United Kingdom
    Britten Sinfonia, Pekka Kuusisto
  • November 8 2014
    City Halls, Glasgow, United Kingdom
    Alasdair Beatson, Hebrides Ensemble
  • November 14 2014
    Dance East, Ipswich, United Kingdom
    Alexander Whitley Dance Company
  • November 18 2014
    Bonnie Bird Theatre, Trinity Laban, London, United Kingdom
    Alexander Whitley Dance Company
  • November 21 2014
    Bath Spa University, Bath, United Kingdom
    Alexander Whitley Dance Company

Past Performances

  • January 26 2002
    Concertgebouw, Amsterdam, Netherlands
    Arditti Quartet
  • January 29 2002
    de Singel, Antwerp, Belgium
    Arditti Quartet
  • February 10 2002
    Presences Festival, Paris, France
    Arditti Quartet
  • March 2 2002
    Musica Nova, Temppliaukio Church, Helsinki, Finland
    Arditti Quartet
  • April 26 2002
    Wittener Tage fur neue Musik, Witten, Germany
    Arditti Quartet
  • May 22 2002
    WDR 3, , Germany
    Arditti Quartet
  • June 21 2002
    Aldeburgh Festival, Snape Maltings Concert Hall, Suffolk, United Kingdom
    Arditti Quartet
  • July 8, August 8 2002
    BBC Radio 3, , United Kingdom
    Arditti Quartet, Birmingham Contemporary Music Group, Endellion Quartet, Simon Rattle
  • September 17 2002
    Musikhalle, Hamburg Musikfest, Germany
    Arditti Quartet
  • April 24 2003
    Queen Elizabeth Hall, London, United Kingdom
    Arditti Quartet
  • April 27 2003
    Kammermusiksalle, Berlin Philharmonie, Germany
    Arditti Quartet
  • September 20 2003
    Carnegie Recital Hall, New York, USA
    Jan Vogler & friends, Louis Lortie
  • April 9 2004
    Universität Mozarteum Salzburg, Salzburg, Austria
    Scharoun Ensemble
  • April 20 2004
    Kleinephilharmonie, Berlin, Germany
    Scharoun Ensemble
  • June 5 2004
    Wigmore Hall, London, United Kingdom
    Belcea Quartet
  • July 30 2004
    Yellow Barn, Putney, USA
    tbc
  • October 13 2004
    BBC Radio 3, , United Kingdom
    Belcea Quartet
  • November 20 2004
    Duke University, Durham, USA
    Alan Feinberg, Ciompi Quartet
  • May 13-14 2005
    Schubertiade Schwarzenberg, Hohenems, Austria
    Belcea Quartet
  • September 30 2005
    Trondheim Chamber Music Festival, Frimurerlogen, Trondheim, Norway
    Belcea Quartet
  • March 11 2006
    ABC Classic FM, , Australia
    Arditti Qt
  • March 27 2006
    Bollate, nr Milan, Italy
    Bruno Canino, Mantegna Quartet
  • June 23 2006
    Keller Hall, University of New Mexico, USA
    Chatter, A Chamber Ensemble, David Felberg
  • October 15 2006
    NDR, Hamburg, Germany
    Arditti Quartet, tbc
  • December 2007
    Nationaltheater, Mannheim, Germany
    tbc
  • March 1-5 2007
    Presences Festival, Paris, France
    Berlin PO, Bertrand Chamayou, Diotima Quartet, Faycal Karoui, Jean Deroyer, Laurent Petitgirard, Orchestre Colonne, Orchestre de Pau, Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France, Quatuor Diotima, Sir Simon Rattle
  • April 17 2007
    'Traced Overhead', Barbican Hall, London, United Kingdom
    Sharoun Ensemble
  • May 11 2007
    Rozsa Centre, University of Calgary, Canada
    Land's End Chamber Ensemble
  • June 27 2007
    Villa Medici, Rome, Italy
    Alain Planès, Quatuor Diotima
  • October 2007
    The Jewel of Russia Festival, ,
    Musicians from the Mariinsky Orchestra, Thomas Adès (pno)
  • October 2 2007
    Ultima Festival, Oslo, Norway
    Arditti Quartet, tbc
  • November 9 2007
    Curtis Institute of Music, Field Concert Hall, Philadelphia, USA
    Curtis Chamber Ensemble
  • November 15 & 19 2007
    Carnegie Hall, New York, USA
    Sharoun Ensemble
  • April 6 2008
    National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin, Ireland
    Hugh Tinney(pno),Michael d'Arcy & Elena Quinn (vlns), John Lynch (vla), William Butt (cello)
  • May 5 2008
    Printing House, Trinity College, Dublin, Ireland
    Mary Dullea, The Smith Quartet
  • December 8 2008
    The Colburn School, Los Angeles, USA
    Gloria Cheng, The Calder Quartet
  • April 6 2010
    National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin, Ireland
    Hugh Tinney (Piano), Michael d'Arcy (Violin), Elena Quinn (Violin), John Lynch (Viola), William Butt (Cello)
  • September 30 2010
    The Jewel of Russia Festival, St Petersburg, Russia
    Thomas Adès (Piano), Musicians from the Mariinsky Orchestra
  • January 5 2011
    Le Poisson Rouge, New York, USA
    Calder Quartet, Gloria Cheng
  • June 19 2011
    Holland Festival, Concertgebouw, Amsterdam, Netherlands
  • October 2 2011
    Hertz Hall, University of California, Berkeley, USA
    Calder Quartet
  • October 3 2013
    Davies Symphony Hall, San Francisco, USA
    Pablo Heras-Casado, San Francisco Symphony, Members of the San Francisco Symphony, John Barry (baritone)
  • April 20 2014
    Salle Elie de Brignac, Deauville, France
    Jonas Vitaud (piano), Quatuor Hermès
  • May 5 2014
    Concert Hall, Perth, United Kingdom
    Hebrides Ensemble
  • May 6 2014
    Brunton Theatre, Musselburgh, United Kingdom
    Hebrides Ensemble
  • October 8 2014
    The Point Theatre, Eastleigh, United Kingdom
    Alexander Whitley Dance Company

© Thomas Adès 2014