The New York Philharmonic

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Thomas Adès's Totentanz a 'Glimpse of Future of Symphonic Music,' New York Magazine Says

New York Magazine Thomas Ades NY Philharmonic

"If you'd like a glimpse of the future of symphonic music — or if you just want to know what devilish majesty the New York Philharmonic will shortly unleash — this two-year-old YouTube video from the Proms in London is a good place to start. It shows the world premiere of Thomas Adès's Totentanz (Dance of Death), which the Philharmonic will perform March 12 through 14," wrote Justin Davidson in New York Magazine.

The critical buzz anticipating these performances, conducted by Adès himself, extends to The New Yorker's Alex Ross, who wrote that Adès is "securely established as a modern master, each new piece assuming the trappings of an event."

In The New York Times, William Robin wrote a piece titled "They're Always Stealing His Stuff" about Adès's huge influence on younger and middle-aged composers such as Andrew Norman and Caroline Shaw. He wrote, "Based on a grim 15th-century frieze, Totentanz is far from the uproarious polystylism of Asyla, though it shares its balance of the lyrical and the unsettling."


The Wall Street Journal's Pia Catton did a piece on Adès and Totentanz on March 10. She quotes soprano Christianne Stotijn: 

“Sometimes it’s an ecstasy of panic, especially when they don’t want to die,” said Ms. Stotijn, describing the music. “You have grown-up characters who react like children. You have a knight who acts like a hero. It’s full of color.”

To portray such a variety of characters, Mr. Adès employed a wide range of nontraditional instruments, such as a standard referee’s whistle with which Death controls the proceedings.

“When he blows his whistle, you have to stop what you’re doing,” said Mr. Adès.

Also onstage are snake rattles, whips, ratchets and bamboo canes. “I’ve gone to town with the percussion,” he said, in order to have instruments that people in the 15th century might have had. “The bones and the clappers and things that can be bashed together.”

Philharmonic 'Most Progressive Institution on Lincoln Center Plaza': The New Yorker

In a review of the all-Nielsen concerts, October 1–3, The New Yorker's classical music critic Alex Ross wrote:

The New York Philharmonic, keeping up the exploratory urge that it displayed in its inaugural Biennial festival, last spring, remains the most progressive institution on the Lincoln Center plaza. In the first weeks of the season, it offered a vibrant new clarinet concerto by Unsuk Chin, with ear-cleansing solos by the Finnish virtuoso Kari Kriikku; and a concert devoted to the perennially neglected Danish master Carl Nielsen, part of the orchestra’s multi-year Nielsen Project, which also includes recordings for the Dacapo label. Alan Gilbert, the Philharmonic’s music director, has a flair for devising programs that extend and refresh the repertory rather than recycle it ad nauseam.

Ross described Gilbert’s rendition of Nielsen's Fifth Symphony as "confident, majestic, relentless; the roiling crescendo at the center of the second movement bested the Bernstein version." Of the Sixth, "an onslaught of fractured forms and fractious sounds," he wrote: "Gilbert found a through-line in the rumpus, and elicited an ovation from the audience. The concert had the feeling of an event."

Read more reviews of these concerts.

Alan Gilbert Gives 'Glistening Clarity' to Britten

Alan Gilbert 

About the all-Britten program Music Director Alan Gilbert conducted Nov. 21–23, The New Yorker's Alex Ross wrote, "Alan Gilbert, on the podium, gave glistening clarity to the insectoid instrumental writing" in Spring Symphony.

In The New York Times, Anthony Tommasini wrote, describing the same work: "Mr. Gilbert drew out the modernist strands of this score. The performance from the inspired orchestra, the New York Choral Artists and the impressive Brooklyn Youth Chorus was a highlight of the Britten year."