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Interview Transcript: Thomas Adès, 2016, Part 2

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Thomas Adès [00:00:00] I love these songs, I've always wanted to do that. I mean, it's not that... I've always want to do that little group, you know, my Purcell arrangements. I did them for a one-off occasion in New York [and] I've never done them since. And the Stravinsky is one of my favorite, favorite pieces of his, and favorite Shakespeare settings. It's something very special. I thought, it needs a concert like this, where you've got the resources of the Chamber Players and there are various people there. And, you know, but also I'm playing, and I thought, you know, I suppose it was a way of saying, we can kind of almost do anything. It doesn't just have to be a piano quintet or something. So it was just the variety that I like, being that sort of person. I love to have a variety sometimes. So, yeah, it was just this realization of a long cherished hope to have these songs in one go.

Brian McCreath [00:00:54] Yeah, and I love the "Court Studies from The Tempest."

TA [00:00:59] Oh, I forgot about that! [laughs]

BMcC [00:01:00] [laughs] Well, it's your own music. But I guess the thing that I, I loved about them, that there was so many, there is so much variety and texture from just a few players. But I wonder, um... I don't know The Tempest, your opera, too terribly well. But I wondered how much we would hear of these pieces within The Tempest, or did you really just use that as a very, as a starting point to write new things for those pieces?

TA [00:01:27] They came after the opera. The opera was finished very, very much at the last minute, the orchestration especially. And it took me a while to kind of let everything settle. There are these, you know, the characters in the opera, obviously, there's Prospero, Miranda, and Ariel, all the big characters who've got their own world of music. That's one thing. But then you get these people arriving who are the chorus. And it's a quite different kind of thing, and I was thinking, what's the music for them going to be? And I went back to 18th century music and looked at thing and I won't go into how exactly I did it. But those parts of the opera, I felt afterwards, I need to kind of make a simpler version, and make a small scale version of it. So all that music is in the opera, you know, you'll hear it. But this is me kind of making sure I've got my voice leading right and understanding the rhythms and this kind of thing. And it turned into this piece. And the court are really like playing cards, these characters, like the King of Naples. And, you know, they are characters, but they do sort of one thing. Whereas Prospero's a big three-dimensional character. So that was actually, strangely, a new thing for me to write these little character sketches. I thought, well, yeah, I'd like to make a little, you know, hand of seven cards, if you like, which is what these studies are.

[00:02:55] And it also kind of explores their relationships and their feelings about each other and that sort of thing in a way. So it really is a study. I mean, it was for my own purposes. But it's nice to play, particularly with these musicians. It was very satisfying to play. I guess that would have been the way into the Shakespeare.

BMcC [00:03:15] Sure. Sure. Yeah. And then the Schubert "Trout" Quintet. I just kind of wonder what your experience as a pianist must be to play this massive thing with Ian Bostridge, Winterreise, which is so deeply and darkly emotional and psychological. And then the "Trout" just a couple of days later, another big piece, but of an entirely different character.

TA [00:03:37] Yeah, a very different world. But I mean, the "Trout" Quintet is probably the first piece of music - or classical music anyway - I ever heard. I mean, it goes back to before I can remember. I remember listening to a record of it, and we actually lived in a mill, so above the mill pond. So if I lay on my back on the floor, I could see the water, you know, reflecting on the ceiling. And I always associate that music with that effect, you know, just seeing the light from the water. Because it's so, the whole thing is just like water on the surface and this wonderful image of the fish. There's a strange kind of poignancy about it, though, because there's a fragility in the fish. So there's these moments of very pathos and some, particularly in the variation bit. So it's that uniquely Schubert combination of lightness and sweetness, and then on the other hand, these kind of shadows. I mean, if you play Winterreise a few days before you're more aware of the shadow side of it, [laughs] because that's almost nothing but shadows. But that piece is so much in my makeup, it goes right back to before I can even remember anything. So I really love playing it. It sort of just comes right, right out. [laughs]

BMcC [00:04:57] That's great. That's great. Well, Thomas Adès, thank you so much for spending some time talking about all of these projects with me. It's so good to have you here in Boston. Thank you.

TA [00:05:03] Thank you Brian.

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Brian McCreath is the Director of Production for CRB.