Quicksilver composer Thomas Ades, at home in L.A.
Detractors might consider Thomas Adès one of the more overexposed composers on the planet (particularly here in L.A. where he’s had a short string of residencies with the L.A. Philharmonic the past few seasons). And all right, maybe the 40-year-old British composer hasn’t yet written his masterpiece for the ages.
Still, for his generation of composers, Adès has produced some of the most satisfying music for the concert and opera stage. And few would deny that his music has become more compelling and deeper as he has gotten older. For the upcoming L.A. Phil festival “Aspects of Adès,” there will be plenty of opportunity to take stock of Adès as composer, pianist, conductor and programmer. (The festival begins on March 14 with a performance of Adès’ Second String Quartet by the Emerson String Quartet, although it really swings into gear in early April.)
While interviewing him in his Hollywood Hills home, I got a better sense of Adès as a person, as someone, for instance, who is as fluent in pop culture as he is he in literature, art and architecture. (His iPod has mostly non-classical music, and he's a fan of house music.) The ultimate multi-tasker, Adès says that his idea of relaxing is performing when he isn’t composing, and vice-versa. (“Twenty-four hours in a day are not enough. That’s my only complaint sometimes,” he said.)
The composite picture of Adès is as a brilliant and complicated artist. “In a way, he is as unpredictable and quicksilver as his music,” according to pianist and Adès collaborator Nicolas Hodges. For more of my profile of Thomas Adès, click here.
-- Matthew Erickson
Photo: Composer/conductor/pianist Thomas Adès, shown near the Village Coffee Shop in the Hollywood Hills. Credit: Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times