19 July 2013

Thomas Adès - Totentanz

So the BBC Proms with Adès turned out to be rather fabulous, Totentanz is an incredible new piece.  This is some of what I had to say on it:
The music was typical Adès in some ways, with the strings remaining in the higher register for a large part of the work, exciting rhythms throughout, and some incredible percussion moments. I would say that it is one of the best pieces he has written, with incredible depth, clarity, and some musical moments I will never forget. Adès had already proved to be a great writer for voice, not least in his two operas, and Totentanz only adds more proof of this. At times the singers could not combat the sound coming from the orchestra, but overall they more than held their own. One of the most memorable parts of the music was when from the character of the mayor onwards, Keenlyside and Stotijn sung “together” – singing different melodies and text, yet at the same time – guided by the orchestra, who eventually took over and offered a loud, stunning musical climax.
The ending of Totentanz was surprising for Death’s words to the child: “Nimm zarter Säugling an den frühen Sensenschalg. Und schlaf hernach getrost bis zu dem Jüngsten Tag!” (“You tender babe, behold the scythe’s untimely blow. Till the last day, sleep now: sleep on, consoled”). This was the first and only tender moment given to this character. Keenlyside and Stotijn entered into a duet that was almost like a lullaby, comparing rather sweetly to the rest of Totentanz. Of course, the darkness soon returned, and the last word – “Tanze”, sung repeatedly by both Keenlyside and Stotijn – was poignant and impressive.
It's definitely worth a listen. The Lutoslawski was also played expertly by everyone, and the Britten was overall not quite as exciting as I sometimes find it but this performance of the second movement, Dies Irae, was definitely all kinds of amazing. You can read my full review here on Bachtrack, but what you really ought to do is listen to the concert on the BBC website here or tune into BBC Four on the 28th of July.

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