Living Toys

Months ago, I saw an interesting documentary of the Berlin Philharmonic on an Asian tour.  It was an insightful film.  Several musicians discussed the anxiety and intensity of being part of one of the world’s great orchestras.  The Berlin Philharmonic’s  conductor,  Sir Simon Rattle, is very charismatic, articulate and enthusiastic.

The orchestra was shown rehearsing and performing a work called ‘Asyla’ by British composer Thomas  Ades.  As a non-musician, I’m not that articulate on the subject of music – but Ades weaves disparate sounds together in fascinating ways.   I enjoy new music even though it can be dissonant and challenging – you have to go forward to meet it and find out what it has to offer.

So this month,  I was happy to see that the Turning Point Ensemble – a local chamber ensemble, was performing some of Thomas Ades music, including “Living Toys” (written when he was 22).   This particular ensemble includes some of the best musicians in Vancouver.

I researched the composer, Thomas Ades on the internet.  He is only in his thirties and is considered a modern master.  Interestingly for me , his grandfather was Egyptian and was said to be the model for Nessim in Laurence Durrell’s ‘Alexandria Quartet’.

The four books of Alexandria Quartet were among my favorite novels when I was in my 20’s – and maybe still are.   I have read each of the books at least twice.  The characters are diverse and fascinating and Durrell is simply a great writer. 

But the wise, dignified Nessim is a portrait of the grandfather of Thomas Ades?  What a pedigree.

There is an interesting piece on Ades at this link  The composer spells his name with an accent over the ‘e’ but my keyboard can’t insert that.

I really enjoyed the concert, was thrilled again, and am a confirmed Ades fan.   The performance took place in small black studio with multi-level seating – like the skeleton of an opera house.   The ensemble also played the short and haunting classic piece, “The Unanswered Question” by Charles Ives – a long-established modern master.  The program notes  included this intriguing quote:

“What has sound got to do with music?!”  (Charles Ives)


2 Responses

  1. Wow, co-incidence! I just discovered some other posts today on the merits of ‘Alexandria quartet’…do you recommend the book?
    How interesting about the link with Thomas Ades…I’ve just written a post on my blog about Sir Simon Rattle, mentioning ades ‘Asyla’….do check it out if you get a chance 🙂

    • Yes, it may be my favourite literary work. Best to get some well-worn copies from a second-hand bookstore then settle into a soft couch to meet all those fascinating and deeply-feeling characters. Funny you should comment on this post, I was thinking about Ades this week as I am going to his concert in Vancouver this March. Lucky me!

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