Thomas Ades: Full of Noises

By Anderson, A. Colin | Gramophone, January 2013 | Go to article overview

Thomas Ades: Full of Noises


Anderson, A. Colin, Gramophone


Thomas Ades: Full of Noises

Conversationswith TomService

Faber, HB, 208pp, 16.99 [pounds sterling]

ISBN 978-0-571-27897-8

In the puffy presentation of this book, big claims are made for Thomas Ades. He is, for example, 'the musician who has done more than any other living composer to connect contemporary music with wider audiences'. Maybe, but those in the John Adams camp will surely be offering their man up for a similar accolade. But this is not about competing composers; rather it is about what the enthusiastic, probing and tenacious Tom Service, such a popular host these days on BBC Radio 3, has elicited from Ades, a notably enigmatic and reclusive man. Service has in fact secured some very interesting responses, some illuminating, some wacky, and all adding up to a portrait of Ades that is revealing, very personal and sometimes difficult to come to terms with. Fans of Mahler, Verdi and Wagner will quite likely be offended, while admirers of Chopin and Janacek will wear a beaming smile on their faces.

Not that the book is flawless in its presentation. There are nine chapters of conversations, arranged into a deliberately serendipitous order, but there is no mention of the individual page numbers in order to find any one chapter, which is sloppy. The scripts themselves seem like a verbatim transcript of these various conversations, which took place in 2011. Although the sparring between the two men is vividly conveyed, sometimes with verbal fisticuffs, there are times when a little editorial fine-tuning (or more of it) might have been an advantage; it is one thing to have been a fly on the wall during these sessions, it is another to be reading the exchanges coldly as a third party away from the dialogue and its various inflections, volumes and temperaments.

Nevertheless, over the 178 pages of discussion (further pages are devoted to a list of Ades's compositions and an index), in a very readable typeface, the reader can be illuminated and repelled in equal measure, and in entirely different ways according to his responses. Certainly Ades holds some pretty cryptic views, maybe those of a deep philosopher or a deliberate provocateur. …

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