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To Paradise (Tom Adès' Dante)

I have been listening to the last movement of Tom Adès' ballet score Dante which was released on disc this Summer by the LA Philharmonic under Gustavo Dudamel.

It was the third act of a collaboration with the choreographer Wayne McGregor and the artist Tacita Dean. The ballet is showing at the Royal Opera House Covent Garden at the moment.

The other two movements (Hell and Purgatory) are very different. Purgatory for example features several recordings of Syrian cantor singing. And I think that's a first for Adès: I don't think he's ever incorporated recordings into his work.

This last movement, however, is 27 minutes of circling, ever-rising uplift. I've listened to it through in one go several times and am never quite sure if it's sublime or cheesy. I'm going for the former. I'd love to hear your thoughts.

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Johanna Eklöv
Johanna Eklöv
Dec 13, 2023

Love it, wonderfully dizzying


Hey Alistair, thank you for sharing this. I've just spent a very pleasant afternoon listening to it in Hi Res audio. I must admit I've not listened to any other works by this composer.

The parts are indeed very different. Part 1 was very descriptive and I found myself wondering what the dancers would be doing on stage and imagining the scenery and lighting. Loved hearing all the orchestral colours.

I really enjoyed the rhythms of part 2 although I found the poorer recording quality of the cantor singing jarred a bit within the great recording quality of the rest.

I don't know what word I'd use to describe Part 3 but I found myself swept up into the heavens…

Alistair Appleton
Alistair Appleton
Nov 27, 2023
Replying to

Ah, I'm so happy that you enjoyed it. I love Tom's work. Some of it is much more concise and challenging but this ballet score is much more expansive and gestural. And I really enjoy the eclectic mix of all the parts. I don't mind the recording of the cantor - it feels like a found scrap of sound (but I wasn't listening on Hi Res!) - but I love the way he winds it into the grand orchestra. I particularly like the trumpet solo in the Heavenly Procession.

And yes, the last movement is a spiralling wonder, isn't it. Ades is obsessed with spirals. If you wanted to hear something else then the violin concerto is very spirally.

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