chapter  1
15 Pages

Thomas Adès in the 1990s

The announcement in late November 1999 that Thomas Ades was to receive the 2000 Grawemeyer Award, the largest prize available to a classical composer, provided confirmation of Ades's increasing international reputation. The Grawemeyer Award, in recognition of an 'outstanding achievement by a living composer in a large musical genre', and judged solely on 'excellence and originality', was awarded for Ades's 1997 orchestral work Asyla Op. 17. Asyla had been commissioned by the John Feeney Charitable Trust for the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, who premiered it, with Sir Simon Rattle conducting, on 1 October 1997. Much has been made in Asyla's promotion and reception of its title, which is the plural of 'asylum'. Arnold Whittall cites Asyla and Living Toys Op. 9 as examples of Ades's 'use of titles to establish allusions to extramusical factors'. The instant success of Asyla, and its ability to command critical attention, reflects something of Ades's own phenomenal rise to prominence.