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Arcadania Op. 12

Thomas Adès (b. 1971)

Signum Quartet (photo credit: Irene Zandel)

Signum Quartet (photo credit: Irene Zandel)

Composer
Thomas Adès (b. 1971)
Composition Year
1993
Work Movements
1. Venezia Notturna
2. Das klinget so herrlich, das iklinget so schön
3. Auf dem Wasser zu singen
4. Et...(tango mortale)
5. L
6. O albion
7. Lethe
Artists
Signum Quartet (Kerstin Dill, Annette Walther [violins], Xandi Van Dijk [viola], And Thomas Schmitz [cello])

Programme Note Writer:
© Francis Humphrys

Thomas Adès is one of Europe’s leading contemporary composers. His Second Quartet, The Four Quarters, was commissioned by Carnegie Hall for the Emerson Quartet. Adès was also Artistic Director of the Aldeburgh Festival for nine years.

Arcadiana is his first string quartet, composed when he was in his early twenties for the Endellion Quartet, who commissioned it to premiere at the Cambridge Elgar Festival. His Opus 1 was a spectacular setting of poems by T.S.Eliot and this afternoon’s work borrows that poet’s magpie technique, used to such effect in The Waste Land ,of quoting both styles and phrases from his literary heroes. Their purposes however seem different for Eliot employed images of the past to emphasize the aridity of the present, whereas Adès seeks merely to evoke images associated with the ideas of the idyll, vanishing, vanished, or imaginary, an aura of fin-de-siècle retrospection. The power of these images is taken from Poussin’s Et in Arcadia ego, where a quartet of youthful shepherds decipher the titular inscription on a tomb, Even in Arcadia I, Death, am present.

The seven movements are played without a break beginning with a mysterious Venetian nocturne, visions of rocking gondolas, lugubrious gondoliers, crumbling palaces and maybe a Tononi violin. Pappageno’s silver bells evoke the power of music followed by a more stringent recall of Schubert Lieder. Poussin’s vision, central to the work, is reflected through a brutal tango, a modern dance of death. A sea journey and Debussy’s L’Isle Joyeuse are conjured by the fifth movement. Nostalgic homage is paid to Elgar by the seventeen bars in Nimrod’s key of E flat, the Albion dedication summoning Blake to the feast. The mystery of the opening is returned to along with the waters of oblivion in the final movement, all ending appropriately in mid-phrase.

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Arcadania Op. 12

Composer: Thomas Adès (b. 1971)
Performance date: Friday 3rd July 2015
Venue: Bantry House Library, Bantry, Co. Cork, Ireland,

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Composer Thomas Adès (b. 1971)
Work Title Arcadania Op. 12
Composition Year 1993
Work Movements 1. Venezia Notturna
2. Das klinget so herrlich, das iklinget so schön
3. Auf dem Wasser zu singen
4. Et...(tango mortale)
5. L
6. O albion
7. Lethe
Artist(s) Signum Quartet (Kerstin Dill, Annette Walther [violins], Xandi Van Dijk [viola], And Thomas Schmitz [cello])
Performance Date Friday 3rd July 2015
Performance Venue Bantry House Library, Bantry, Co. Cork, Ireland,
Event Crespo Series
Duration 00:18:37
Recording Engineer Richard McCullough, RTÉ lyric fm
Instrumentation Category String Quartet
Instrumentation 2vn, va, vc
Programme Note Writer © Francis Humphrys

Thomas Adès is one of Europe’s leading contemporary composers. His Second Quartet, The Four Quarters, was commissioned by Carnegie Hall for the Emerson Quartet. Adès was also Artistic Director of the Aldeburgh Festival for nine years.

Arcadiana is his first string quartet, composed when he was in his early twenties for the Endellion Quartet, who commissioned it to premiere at the Cambridge Elgar Festival. His Opus 1 was a spectacular setting of poems by T.S.Eliot and this afternoon’s work borrows that poet’s magpie technique, used to such effect in The Waste Land ,of quoting both styles and phrases from his literary heroes. Their purposes however seem different for Eliot employed images of the past to emphasize the aridity of the present, whereas Adès seeks merely to evoke images associated with the ideas of the idyll, vanishing, vanished, or imaginary, an aura of fin-de-siècle retrospection. The power of these images is taken from Poussin’s Et in Arcadia ego, where a quartet of youthful shepherds decipher the titular inscription on a tomb, Even in Arcadia I, Death, am present.

The seven movements are played without a break beginning with a mysterious Venetian nocturne, visions of rocking gondolas, lugubrious gondoliers, crumbling palaces and maybe a Tononi violin. Pappageno’s silver bells evoke the power of music followed by a more stringent recall of Schubert Lieder. Poussin’s vision, central to the work, is reflected through a brutal tango, a modern dance of death. A sea journey and Debussy’s L’Isle Joyeuse are conjured by the fifth movement. Nostalgic homage is paid to Elgar by the seventeen bars in Nimrod’s key of E flat, the Albion dedication summoning Blake to the feast. The mystery of the opening is returned to along with the waters of oblivion in the final movement, all ending appropriately in mid-phrase.