Commissioned by the City of Birmingham Orchestra, Asyla was given its premiere in 1997, under the baton of Sir Simon Rattle. As is typical of Adès, the title implies both a place of rest and a home for the mentally unstable, capturing the subversive tone of the piece. Berkeley Symphony is honored to bring this important work to Bay Area audiences once again. One of the best-loved works in the classical music repertoire, Tchaikovsky’s “Pathétique” Symphony premiered in October of 1893, conducted by the composer, only nine days prior to his death. Its rich melodies and passionate romanticism remain profoundly moving and provide a welcome escape from 21st century realism.
ProgramThomas Adès: Asyla
Program InformationThomas Adès: Asyla, Op. 17
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Born on March 1, 1971, in London. Thomas Adès completed Asyla in 1997 on a commission by the John Feeney Charitable Trust for the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra. Asyla, whose title is the Latin plural of “asylum,” is a four-movement symphonic score, which was first heard in October 1997, and demonstrates the precocious mastery of the London-born composer Thomas Adès, who was then in his mid-20s. Asyla is a work of Mahlerian ambitions that calls for a vast orchestra to explore its extraordinary range of emotional states — all within a relatively brief duration no longer than that of a modest Classical symphony. The third movement, “Ecstasio,” suggests both a thrilling psycho-spiritual state and the pharmacological passport to reach it: the drug Ecstasy. Dance beats accumulate in layers as they weave in and out, creating a funhouse effect of shifting musical points of view. Here is a microcosm of the simultaneous diffuseness and coherence of Asyla overall — a “fantastic symphony” for the eve of the millennium.
First performance: October 1, 1997, in Birmingham, England, with Simon Rattle conducting the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra. Asyla is scored for a large orchestra of 2 piccolos, 3 flutes, bass flute, 3 oboes, bass oboe, English horn, 3 clarinets, bass clarinet, contrabass clarinet, 3 bassoons, contrabassoon, 4 horns, piccolo trumpet, 3 trumpets, 3 trombones, tuba, timpani, percussion (roto-toms, bass drum, pedal bass drum, finger drums, side drum, bell plates, cowbells, tubular bells, Chinese cymbal, suspended cymbals, choke cymbal, hi-hat cymbal, crash cymbals, sizzle cymbal, large tin cans, geophone, tam-tam, water gongs, gongs, ratchets, washboard, sandpaper blocks, bag of metal cutlery, glockenspiel, crotales) grand piano, celesta, two upright pianos, harp, and strings. Duration: 25 minutes.
Follow Thomas Adès on Twitter @Thomas_ades.
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Born on May 7, 1840, in Votkinsk, Russia; died on November 6, 1893, in St. Petersburg, Russia. Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky composed the last of his six symphonies in 1893 and died just nine days after he unveiled this mature masterpiece. That juxtaposition — music of a deeply tragic character with the composer’s own death — has fueled endless speculation and is part of the mystique of the Sixth, whose nickname Pathétique connotes intense emotions, impassioned suffering. Here, in this powerful journey into the psyche, Tchaikovsky sets the stage for a new century of bleak requiems.
First performance: October 28, 1893, in Saint Petersburg, with the composer conducting. The Sixth Symphony is scored for 3 flutes (3rd doubling piccolo), 2 oboes, 2 clarinets, bass clarinet, 2 bassoons, 4 horns, 2 trumpets, 3 trombones, tuba, timpani, percussion (bass drum, cymbals, and tam-tam), and strings. Duration: 45 minutes.
Additional Events6:30 pm - Box Office/Will Call, Cafe Zellerbach open7:00 pm - Pre-concert Talk in the main hall featuring Paul Dresher and Bill Quillen8:00 pm - Concert begins
The Grubb Co.Janet & Marcos Maestre William Knuttel Winery