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.
Table of Contents
1. Thomas Adès in the 1990s 2. Towards Asyla (1990–97) 3. ‘Trying to Find Refuge’: The Symphonic Logic of the First Movement 4. ‘A Safe Place to go in Times of Trouble’ 5. ‘Ecstasio’: A ‘Freaky, Funky Rave’? 6. Asylum Gained? 7. Interpreting Asyla Epilogue: After Asyla
Edward Venn is Associate Professor in Music at the University of Leeds and Critical Forum editor for Music Analysis. His research focuses on twentieth-century and contemporary music, and his first monograph, The Music of Hugh Wood, appeared in 2008. His research on Adès’s Asyla was supported by a Leverhulme Research Fellowship.
"Edward Venn’s monograph provides the most thorough-going technical assessment Adès’s music has yet received." - Arnold Whittall, The Musical Times
"Edward Venn’s superb monograph Thomas Adès: Asyla serves the interests of at least two distinct audiences: one broad, and one deep. Three chapters (the first, second, and seventh) provide the richest survey of Adès’s work in the 1990s, its broader cultural context, and its critical reception currently in print. The four other chapters, taken together, constitute the single most in-depth exploration of any of Adès’s compositions that has been undertaken to date.Venn’s book is a treasure trove of insights and information about one of the most lauded symphonic works written since the fall of the Berlin Wall." - Drew Massey, NABMSA Reviews
"Venn’s writing is extremely lucid. He clearly communicates the ways in which Ad 'es plays with and expands very basic compositional processes in order to create a musical sound that draws the ear in its immediacy, but also rewards further contemplation and study. In this respect, Venn’s prose is much like Ade' s’s music: he manages to convey these processes in all their intricacy, inviting intense consideration while maintaining an overall compelling flow. In terms of the overall argument, Venn is un-doubtedly original, since he manages to blend theoretical work with a political dimension that has been absent from Ad 'es scholarship until now. This book is a long-overdue critical analysis of Ade' s’s cultural impact." - Alexis Vellianitis, St. Peter's College, Oxford
"Venn’s Thomas Adès: Asyla serves as an invaluable source for a deeper understanding of Adès’s orchestral work. One may assume from the title that this study is focused just on Asyla, but the monograph is not exclusively devoted to discussions and analyses of its musical structure. Although the central part of the book is dedicated to an analysis of the score, Venn places the work in a broader cultural context and Adès’s position within it. Indeed, Venn’s scholarly book is a pioneering work for prospective Adès studies, and future commentaries and analytical studies that focus on Adès’s music will no doubt draw inspiration from Venn’s monograph." - Philip Stoecker, City University of New York, USA