A Review of Pianist, Violinist, and Cellist's Riveting Performance at Carnegie Hall
Ades, Marwood, and Isserlis perform US premiere of Ades' 'Rediscovered Places' at Carnegie Hall
Born in London in 1971, Thomas Adès is rapidly establishing an international reputation as a powerhouse composer, pianist, and conductor. He held Carnegie Hall’s composer chair during the 2007–2008 season and is being presented there again this year as piano soloist and chamber musician in three concerts featuring his own works. For the first concert, held March 19 at Zankel Hall, two renowned string players—violinist Anthony Marwood and cellist Steven Isserlis—joined him. Adès' close rapport with them showed that these players have enjoyed many collaborations.
The program’s novelty was the US premiere of Adès’ 2009 “Lieux retrouvés (Rediscovered Places)” for cello and piano, commissioned jointly by Carnegie Hall, Wigmore Hall, and the Aldeburgh Festival, where Isserlis and Adès introduced it last year. Its four contrasting movements evoke water, fields, mountains, and the city with complex, partly jazzy rhythms and sonorities ranging from delicate figurations to massive chords. The pianissimo cello opening seems to emanate from deep down and far away.
Treating the instruments as equal partners, Adès exploits their technical and tonal possibilities with very virtuosic writing: the cello part includes a long passage in rapidly changing four-string arpeggios. Isserlis says he has never played anything so difficult. The program included cello transcriptions of two slow, mournful pieces by Liszt; the Poulenc Cello Sonata, famous for its technical hurdles and swiftly changing moods; and two works written on the brink of World War I, which may account, in part, for their intensity and restlessness: Janácek’s Violin Sonata and the Ravel Trio. The rhythmic, tonal, and expressive demands of that latter work make it one of the most daunting works in the repertoire.
The performances were riveting.
The players’ instrumental command was entirely at the service of the music. Adès’ palette of colors and nuances, touch, and dynamics seemed unlimited. Marwood, also the violinist of the Florestan Trio, displayed an effortless technique and a beautiful, rich, varied tone that was free and flexible—his Janácek had a spoken, improvisatory quality, but also form and coherence. Isserlis captured every mood and character change. His expressiveness was so concentrated that he seemed to communicate the music directly to the listener without the intermediacy of an instrument.
The large, spellbound audience responded with standing ovations.