Thomas Adès has said he’s not interested in following the career path of Leonard Bernstein or Pierre Boulez, where composing ended up taking a back seat to conducting. That’s good news because it means he can keep turning out pieces like “In Seven Days,” which he conducted with the Boston Symphony Orchestra in between shuttling to New York to conduct his opera, “The Tempest,” with the Met.
On the other hand, the BSO concert was so bracing, so well thought out that a part of me wished we could keep the 41-year-old musician here rather than let him go back to England where he intends to chain himself to a radiator and get back to composing after repeating this concert Saturday night (Nov. 17) and then appearing with fellow pianist Kirill Gerstein Sunday.
At least that’s how he laughed about it in a pre-concert interview. He also said that the other pieces he was conducting in the BSO program — Prokofiev’s Piano Concerto No. 1 (also with Gerstein) and Sibelius’s “Luonnotar” (with the silken-voiced Dawn Upshaw) and Symphony No. 6 – were part of his DNA as a composer, though he couldn’t point to how.
Even if audience members couldn’t explain it either, it was obvious enough intuitively, the way “In Seven Days” exploded from fluttering strings into orchestral starbursts a la Sibelius and pianistic dissonances played off orchestral melodies in both Prokofiev and “In Seven Days.”
That may be a reductionist way of looking at each of the pieces, but it was certainly a joy to hear them together. A couple of weeks ago, another major 21st century composer, Kaija Saariaho, had a wondrous, co-commissioned piece, “Circle Map,” played alongside Benjamin Britten’s violin concerto. Following those two pieces up with a Dvorak symphony seemed like a 19th century bonbon. The Adès concert seemed totally organic. Unchain yourself from that radiator and come back any time, Mr. Adès.