Shopping Cart -

Your cart is currently empty.
Continue Shopping
This website use cookies and similar technologies to improve the site and to provide customised content and advertising. By using this site, you agree to this use. To learn more, including how to change your cookie settings, please view our Cookie Policy
Pocketmags Digital Magazines
Pocketmags Digital Magazines

Notes from the edge

Thomas Adès is the most gifted British composer of his time, but his love of musical extremes holds him back, argues Ivan Hewett

“Even as the UK is brimming with wonderful young composers, I think few would dispute that Tom Adès may be the most extravagantly gifted of them all.” So claims Simon Rattle, who will soon be returning from Berlin to lead the London Symphony Orchestra. Few would dispute his assertion. Born in London in 1971, Thomas Adès studied piano and composition at the Guildhall before going on to create orchestral and operatic works that have won him enormous acclaim and popularity—even among those who traditionally avoid modern classical music. For some he is our greatest composer since Benjamin Britten.

And yet Rattle’s praise doesn’t quite strike the right note. He suggests Adès differs from his peers simply in the “extravagance” of his gifts. But in many respects Adès is unique. He floats above other composers at a rarefied altitude of celebrity, winning in his twenties prizes that normally go to composers in their seventies. He first came to popular attention with his 1995 opera Powder Her Face, his portrayal (with librettist Philip Hensher) of the tragicomic fate of the scandalous Duchess of Argyll. That work is now a fixture in the operatic repertoire.

One of Adès’s favourite quotations is from André Breton: “Life is elsewhere.” And that’s where he always seems to be—flitting from one high-prestige venue to another, conducting in Salzburg one week, Los Angeles the next. Some years ago his music was the subject of three major retrospectives simultaneously, on three different continents. As an awed critic said to me, not even Britten attracted attention on such a scale.

Purchase options below
Find the complete article and many more in this issue of Prospect Magazine - May 2017
If you own the issue, Login to read the full article now.
Single Issue - May 2017
Or 499 points
Annual Digital Subscription
Only $ 4.10 per issue
Or 4099 points

View Issues

About Prospect Magazine

In Prospect’s May issue: Neal Ascherson, Simon Jenkins, John Curtice and Frances Cairncross examine the growing divide between England and Scotland. Ascherson argues that England has become Scotland’s “neurotic neighbour,” while Jenkins says we should learn from history and prepare for Scotland to leave the Union. Cairncross and Curtice debate whether Scotland could afford to break with England and whether a fresh referendum on independence is actually winnable. Also in this issue: Jason Burke questions whether the world will be a safer place after the downfall of Islamic State, Paul Hilder examines how politics got tangled in the web and Michael White reviews a new book charting the history of the Daily Mail