After listening to and viewing a rehearsal for the New York Philharmonic Orchestra’s presentation of “In Seven Days,” the 2008 concerto for piano and moving image by Thomas Adès and Tal Rosner being performed January 7 and 8 at Avery Fisher Hall, I was ready to become a creationist.
Not that the piece works to persuade the audience of anything more than to pay attention to its rich array of sounds and imagery. Swept up from the tohu-bohu of unruly waves, the audience is buffeted by the composer’s rich reverberations and the videographer’s eye-popping visuals, uncertain whether the aural propels the visual or vice versa. And therein lies the piece’s power, and the audience’s uncanny feeling of participating in the act of creation.
Thomas Adès (born in 1971) is the celebrated English composer whose opera, “The Tempest,” was commissioned by London’s Covent Garden and premiered there in 2004. I saw it then and was stunned that someone so young could manage something so magical and successful. (Ok, I know about Mozart, but this isn’t the 18th century.)
Working with his Israeli partner, Tal Rosner (born in 1978), Adès has developed an amazingly inventive intersection of impressions that buffet the audience’s senses in unfamiliar and exciting ways. There are echoes of the long-ago tie-dye shtick of rock concerts at the Fillmore, as well as the wall-washing videos of the more recent and vapid Pipilotti Rist extravaganza in MoMA’s atrium. Given the combination of media here, it’s also difficult not to recall BAM’s presentation of Steve Reich’s majestic work, The Cave (1990-93), with videos by Beryl Korot, also using biblical themes (in that case to explore Israeli/Palestinian issues).
The New York Philharmonic’s exciting and surprising performance manages to persuade on a wholly different level, because the synchronicity of sound and sight is so energetic and constantly changing. With the composer at the keyboard one wonders whether anyone else could actually perform this virtuosic piece, and I have no idea whether the filmmaker is a necessary component for getting the projections to work so perfectly. But being swept up in a performance involves a belief in some sort of magic (as does creationism), and it happens here in spades.
Aural energies pulsate with visual ones — intensities of sound reflected by intensities of light (or is it vice versa?). Images that seem to sweep across every possible formulation of modern art’s many modes, playing with kaleidoscopic sensations. The music — and it’s definitely music! — manages to convey much of the same, with tonalities that shift in and out of a full range of post-Wagnerian sounds, never resting long enough to let go of what turns out to be an electrifying and suggestive ride. Bravo to maestro Alan Gilbert for taking us on yet another intelligent journey in a program — which also includes Mozart and Mahler — that might have provided unbeatable competition for the junior pair, but doesn’t.
Watch New York Philharmonic Music Director Alan Gilbert discuss Thomas Adès’s ‘In Seven Days’: