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In Seven DaysLondon Sinfonietta
CD & DVD SET
The London Sinfonietta combine two works from Thomas Adès, one of the most distinctive and popular voices in modern composition. Both works feature accompanying films (by Tal Rosner and Sophie Clements) that are included in this CD/DVD set. This is the second CD for the London Sinfonietta with Signum. It follows their October release of music by Louis Andriessen, featuring the UK premiere of Anaïs Nin, alongside his famed work De Staat.
In Seven Days is a musical interpretation for piano and orchestra of the biblical ‘creation’ by Thomas Adès, composed in collaboration with a film-piece by the artist and filmmaker Tal Rosner. Both music and film evoke the processes of the creation rather than the objects described in the movement titles, using simple elements in repeated and evolving contexts in a perpetual state of flux, change and growth.
The Piano Studies Nos 6 & 7 are arrangements of player-piano works by the American composer Conlon Nancarrow. An influential figure to generations of composers, Nancarrow’s studies for the player-piano (or pianola) allowed him to generate music of extreme rhythmic complexity in a multitude of inventive ways. These arrangements for two pianos by Thomas Adès capture the strange magic of the originals, where fragmented musical ideas are played off against each other in a wild, almost jazz-like way. The works are accompanied by film-visualisations by Tal Rosner and Sophie Clements.
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"Bold and delightful, this release would make an admirable gift for a discerning Christmas stocking."
In Seven Days
Release date: 5th Dec 2011
Order code: SIGCD277
|1.||In Seven Days: i. Chaos - Light - Dark||Thomas Adès||8.25|
|2.||In Seven Days: ii. Separation of the waters into sea and sky||Thomas Adès||4.14|
|3.||In Seven Days: iii. Land - Grass - Trees||Thomas Adès||5.35|
|4.||In Seven Days: iv. Stars - Sun - Moon||Thomas Adès||3.16|
|5.||In Seven Days: Fugue: v. Creatures of the Sea and Sky||Thomas Adès||3.05|
|6.||In Seven Days: Fugue: vi. Creatures of the Land||Thomas Adès||2.29|
|7.||In Seven Days: vii. Contemplation||Thomas Adès||1.53|
|8.||Study No.6||Conolon Nancarrow, arr. Thomas Adès||3.39|
|9.||Study No.7||Conolon Nancarrow, arr. Thomas Adès||10.00|
In these so-called austere times it is tempting for ensembles to stick to tried-and-tested repertoire; to trot out the big hitters that are guaranteed to draw a decent crowd. But the London Sinfonietta have never been of of this ilk. In 2011, the group toured In Seven Days, a work for piano and orchestra penned by Thomas Adès with visuals by Tal Rosner, co-commissioned by the Southbank Centre and the Los Angeles Philharmonic Association. This two-disc set features a live recording of the concert at Birmingham Symphony Hall, conducted by Adès himself, and a DVD marrying the music with its accompanying visuals.
Rosner's moving images were conceived as part of the composition, which is a 'video-ballet' in seven movements following the story of creation, and the listener really gets the most from the project when they consider the visual and audio elements concurrently. Adès goes further than simply depicting the objects of creation, focussing instead on energies and processes. For example, the swirling of the cosmos is alluded to in the continual ascending and descending scales passed from woodwind to piano (the latter expertly played by Nicolas Hodges), and Rosner's kaleidoscope images are perfectly entwined.
In Seven Days is followed by Conlon Nancarrow's Studies Nos 6 and 7, performed by Rolf Hind and Adès (is there no end to this man's talents?), both on piano, and recorded live at Kings Place, London, accompanied by Rosner and Sophie Clements' geometric visual representations.
MUSO, Claire Jackson
London Sinfonietta with Ades's 'moving image' concerto
The London Sinfonietta's new association with Signum Classics continues with the first recording of Thomas Ades's In Seven Days. Described as a 'Piano Concerto with Moving Image', this half-hour piece is also a video-ballet in seven continuous movements that evoke the Creation story in sound and vision. A sombre though translucent prelude depicts 'Chaos-Light-Dark', piano then coming to the 'fore in the animated 'Separation of the waters into sea and sky' and intermezzo-like 'Land-Grass-Trees'. The central 'Stars, Sun, Moon' brings the most sustained and intense music,then an elaborate (texturally at least) fugue segues 'Creatures of the Sea and Sky' and 'Creatures of the Land' in a gradual build-up to the final section, 'Contemplation'. This alludes to earlier ideas from a more tranquil perspective, albeit with a hint of the opening to suggest a sense of closure.
Evocative without being merely descriptive, In Seven Days is a highly cohesive work that understatedly fulfils its intention. The piano writing is expertly integrated into the ensemble, Nicolas Hodges amply exploiting the judicious range of timbral possibilities, with the caveats that the whole feels no more than the sum of its parts, nor does the overall variation process have quite the cumulative impact its subject matter leads one to expect. Tal Rosner's video designs are a pleasure to watch as they pursue various off-symmetrical guises: the fact that the six screens have, for DVD purposes, been reduced to a rectangular formation does not in itself limit them to a highly effective gloss on music which, when heard on CD, is no less 'complete' as a purely sonic entity.
Both formats include two of Conlon Nancarrow's Studies for player piano- the rhythmically dextrous Sixth and the fantasia-like Seventh of the series- in Ades's two-piano transcriptions that bring their complexity but also playfulness into explicit focus, with Sophie Clements's discreet visuals a stylish complement. The DVD has a dialogue between Ades and Rosner, while sound and booklet-notes serve the music admirably. Whether In Seven Days is a harbinger of things to come or just a diverting novelty must be for each listener to decide.
Gramophone, May 2012, Richard Whitehouse
Adès’s piano concerto In Seven Days is inspired by the biblical story of creation. At its premiere the visuals by video artist Tal Rosner made the whole seem frenetically overactive. Without them, it seems much the same. The ingenuity and dazzling colours of Adès’s wheeling rhythmic and harmonic cycles are jaw-dropping, as is the performers’ virtuosity.
The Telegraph, Ivan Hewett
In 2008 Thomas Adès wrote a piano concerto that follows the Creation story (hence seven days movements, the last entitled ‘Contemplation’, the day of rest) and intended it to be performed integrally with Tal Rosner’s moving images. Adès generates musical ideas, develops and jostles them, sucking the listener into a living narrative: ‘Separation of Waters into Sea and Sky’; ‘Land-Grass-trees’; ‘Stars-Sun-Moon’; ‘Creatures…’ The music leaps off the page into the consciousness in this terrific performance. As for the images, they’re on the DVD where the music is played again and Adès and Rosner talk. There are also visuals for two of Conlon Nancarrow’s ‘studies’ for player piano, rhythmically intricate pieces transcribed for two (normal) pianos by Adès. Nancarrow (1912-97) had a wry sense of musical humour, teasing and beguiling n these examples.
Time Out, Colin Anderson
A fascinating new release from Signum Classics, and the second with the London Sinfonietta, is ‘In Seven Days’ by the British composer Thomas Adès (b. 1971), alongside arrangements by Adès of two Nancarrow studies for two pianos. ’In Seven Days’ is a work for piano and orchestra with moving image (created by Tal Rosner) and was jointly commissioned by the Southbank Centre and the Los Angeles Philharmonic and first performed in 2008. It tells the story of creation but returns to the Hebrew version and it is certainly compelling to hear the composer and creator of the visuals Rosner discuss the work in conversation on the DVD, along with performances of the works with the visuals.
“Chaos-Light-Dark” lives up to its name; the incisive strings (showing the skill of the London Sinfonietta players, here conducted by Adès) seem to be playing with an idea literally on the cellular level – it is something that needs to be seen with visuals and one can witness how beautifully the music captures the inherent energy in the visual and somehow the visual seems to absorb the rhythmic flow of the music. The entry of the piano (‘Light’) is effortlessly voiced and controlled by Nicolas Hodges – and the recording balances the piano well with the ensemble and deservedly makes him prominent. “Separation of the waters into sea and sky” felt very much like the music was undergoing a similar process of separation as wind/brass gestures feel they are being pulled from the piano. There is real precision in the integration of the visuals (all created by Rosner from photography and film footage from the two commissioning venues) and music not only in the motivic processes but the harmonic material, textural changes and orchestration all captured by a visual gesture.
One heard the opening of Ravel’s Concerto for the Left Hand – not a quotation but the similarly dark orchestration – in “Land – Grass – Trees”. Real sense of growth in the music and images with ascending musical figures, and harmonic materials that shifted immediately just as one felt they might settle. “Stars – Sun – Moon” has such vibrancy with the flute/piccolo with unexpected twists in turns in the piano at a high tessitura. This is colourful orchestration showing virtuosity not only in structuring the synergy between music and visual but the colours of the orchestra and images. I hear Britten’s sea music in “Creatures of the Sea and Sky” yet this remains something quintessentially Adès: leaping figures capture the energy of a world awakening with creatures and musical materials from this movement appear in the next movement “Creatures of the Land”. This penultimate movement shows how the piano behaves very much like a narrator, observer and commentator of the act of creation and as such it comments on previously heard musical material. Nicolas Hodges displays incredible breadth in his dynamic range and ability to capture the colours inherent in Adès’ writing. “Contemplation” is utterly contemplative with the delicate harmonics in the strings and slow descending music in the piano. The ending is sensitively conceived, if it really an ending as Adès rightly says on the DVD the end of ‘In Seven Days’ is the beginning.
Two studies by Nancarrow complete this recording – Adès arranged Study No. 6 and No. 7 for two pianos and performs them with Rolf Hind. A different kind of process here as ‘In Seven Days’ was conceived as a work for music and visuals from the outset while here Tal Rosner, with Sophie Clements, created moving images that connect with the musical rhetoric of Nancarrow’s studies with insight and inventiveness. The playing is precise, witty and displays real insight into the complexity and rhythmic interest of Nancarrow’s works, as much as the visuals do. This is a insightful recording and is presented extremely well as a CD and DVD set – Nancarrow and Adès connecting well on the same recording. There is something balletic in the synergy of music and image here; very much worth hearing and seeing.
Steven Berryman, Steven-Berryman.com
Want something different for Christmas? Have you considered construction scaffolding, the Festival Hall light fittings, a lift’s machinery and the surface of the Thames? These are among the mundane materials used by the British/Israeli film-maker Tal Rosner in the visual layer of In Seven Days, the ingenious, far from mundane “video-ballet” composed by Britain’s musical volcano Thomas Adès (he’s also Rosner’s civil partner). You can buy it now as a CD/DVD package from Signum Classics, the new CD home of the music’s crack performers, the London Sinfonietta.
Created to celebrate the new Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles and the refurbishment of our own Royal Festival Hall, this half-hour creation narrative seemed attractive but faintly underwhelming at its 2008 London premiere. Its force became diffused in the spaces between the Sinfonietta’s busy ensemble, the industrious commentary from Nicolas Hodges’s piano, and images divided across six screens. Happily that’s not the case on the DVD. Locked in at home, the force is concentrated. Now you revel as shape, rhythm and dynamics interact and seven sections take us from watery chaos (the Thames digitally enhanced) through the creation of land, vegetation and living things to a final day of contemplation.
Like alchemists, Adès and Rosner transform basic elements into a glittering wonder. Best-known in Britain for his title sequence to Channel 4’s series Skins, Rosner’s styling here often harks back to the abstract patterning of the 1920s European film avant-garde. But not in a spirit of dusty homage; all is exuberance as blobs dance, circles pulse and spindles multiply into an emerald jungle, in perfect time to the mounting waves of Adès’s score. An exciting creation about creation: that’s In Seven Days.
Adès himself conducts the Sinfonietta. He’s also featured along with Rolf Hind as an heroic pianist, navigating the complex rhythms of two Studies by Conlon Nancarrow, originally punched out on piano rolls for reproduction on player-pianos. No 6, gentle and slight, doesn’t quite suit the visual accompaniment, a fancy version of TV interference. But Rosner and Sophie Clements ballet of circles, triangles and squares only amplify the fun of the epic No 7, an intoxicating pyramid of clashing rhythms. Bold and delightful, this release would make an admirable gift for a discerning Christmas stocking.
The Times, Geoff Brown