Thomas Adès (b. 1971) is an established international figure, both as composer and performer, with popular and critical acclaim and admiration from around the world. Edward Venn examines in depth one of Adès’s most significant works so far, his orchestral Asyla (1997). Its blend of virtuosic orchestral writing, allusions to various idioms, including rave music, and a musical rhetoric encompassing both high modernism and lush romanticism is always compelling and utterly representative of Adès’s distinctive compositional voice. The reception of Asyla since its premiere in 1997 by Sir Simon Rattle and the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra (CBSO) has been staggering. Instantly hailed as a classic, Asyla won the 1997 Royal Philharmonic Society Award for Large-Scale Composition. An internationally acclaimed recording made of the work was nominated for the 1999 Mercury Music Prize, and in 2000, Adès became the youngest composer (and only the third British composer) to win the Grawemeyer prize, for Asyla. Asyla is fast becoming a repertory item, rapidly gaining over one hundred performances: a rare distinction for a contemporary work.
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