Adès: Violin Concerto, Op 23 ('Concentric Paths'); Three Studies from Couperin

Reviewed on Wed 09 Apr, 2014

The titles of each movement in the concerto (Rings, Paths and Rounds) offer a hint of the tension between forward-moving and recursive elements in this music. Its emotional heart lies towards the end of its central movement; over a chaconne-inspired texture, the soaring solo violin eventually descends to its lowest register in repeated melodic phrases, evoking a moving sense of wordless prayer (a legacy from Britten's Violin Concerto?). The outer movements are orbiting planets, sometimes flirting with minimalism but with moments (and endings) of explosive energy. Adès's Studies (from Couperin's harpsichord pieces) are not just transcriptions, but timbral re-imaginings in the spirit of Respighi; the first offers a liquid entwining of bassoon, clarinet and both bass and alto flutes, the second scintillates, and the third weeps and swoons. Playing and recorded sound are excellent, and the download reasonably priced, although Marwood (EMI Classics) offers two additional Adès works besides the two featured here.
–Chris Achenbach