Review: City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra world premiere of Adès’s “Exterminating Angel” Symphony

Posted on: August 12, 2021

The City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra’s centennial-year commissions include “a symphony by Thomas Adès derived from his opera The Exterminating Angel, … [premiered] in Birmingham … and at the BBC Proms … conducted by CBSO music director Mirga Gražinyte-Tyla,” writes Richard Fairman in Tuesday’s (8/10) Financial Times (U.K.; subscription required). “The symphony is a huge piece, more than just an orchestral showpiece, though the razzle-dazzle of Adès’s immense and coruscating orchestra is, as ever, a thing of wonder…. Three [movements], including the hauntingly melancholy ‘Berceuse,’ are lifted more or less directly from the opera, while the closing ‘Waltzes’ movement is newly worked from fragments. The palpable presence of an unseen threat hangs over the symphony just as memorably as it did over the opera…. Gražinyte-Tyla chose as a pairing the first Proms performance of the Symphony No. 2 by Ruth Gipps … (1921-99)…. She wrote her Symphony No. 2 in 1945 to celebrate the end of the war and it belongs fair and square to its time. … It is brisk, varied, never indulgent… Gražinyte-Tyla and the CBSO played it with panache.” Also on the program was Brahms’s Symphony No. 3.