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News - John Luther Adams and Anna Thorvaldsdottir European premieres

Thursday, April 25, 2019
Two major new works for orchestra premiere in Europe this spring that each push the boundaries of orchestral writing in the 21st Century: Become Desert by John Luther Adams and AIŌN by Anna Thorvaldsdottir.

In these substantial new works — 40 and 45 minutes respectively — each composer uses the orchestra unconventionally to build intricate and evocative sonic landscapes that immerse concert audiences and encourage deep listening.


John Luther Adams Become Desert (European Premiere)

Become Desert, the final work in the widely acclaimed ‘Become’ trilogy by John Luther Adams (JLA) will receive its European premiere this week. The Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra and the Netherlands Chamber Choir will perform the new work, conducted by Kevin John Edusei, at De Doelen on Thursday, April 25. This concert is the culmination of a season-long focus on JLA’s music as part of the venue’s Red Sofa series, which has featured a broad range of his works including Dark Waves (version for two pianos), The Wind in High Places, A Northern Suite, The Light Within (orchestra version), The Light That Fills the World (orchestra version), and a full evening programme by the DoelenEnsemble dedicated to JLA’s small ensemble works.

A move to the desert after forty years living in Alaska inspired Luther Adams to write Become Desert: 'As I’ve begun to learn the landforms, the light, the weather, the plants and the birds, I’ve dreamed of music that echoes this extraordinary landscape.' The result is a 40-minute spatial work 'of shimmering, palpitating musical magic — as beautiful and entrancing a new work as anything to come along in years.[…] the rare sequel that not only lives up to its predecessor, but far outstrips it in artistic effect.' Joshua Kosman, San Francisco Chronicle.

Later this year, the premiere recording of Become Desert by the Seattle Symphony Orchestra, Seattle Symphony Chorale and Ludovic Morlot will be released on Cantaloupe Music, who also released the second work in the trilogy, Become Ocean, in 2014.

Become Desert was commissioned by the New York Philharmonic and the Seattle Symphony Orchestra with co-commissions from the San Diego Symphony and the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra.



Watch a clip from the premiere performance

Read JLA's essay on the sonic lessons of the desert in his article in Slate


Anna Thorvaldsdottir AIŌN (World Premiere)

AIŌN, which will receive its world premiere at Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra’s inaugural Point Music Festival on May 24, is Anna Thorvaldsdottir’s most ambitious orchestral score to date. Comprising three movements which run continuously over the work’s 45-minute duration, Thorvaldsdottir invites the listener to become completely immersed in a sonic landscape of ever-changing perspectives beneath which powerful forces appear to be at play, bending perception of time and space. 'AIŌN is inspired by the abstract metaphor of being able to move freely in time,' she says, 'of being able to explore time as a place/space that you inhabit rather than experiencing it as a one-directional journey through a single dimension.'

The premiere performance has been created in collaboration with Erna Ómarsdóttir of Iceland Dance Company who has created choreography to physically embody Thorvaldsdottir’s score. Dancers from the company will share the concert stage with Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra conducted by Anna-Maria Helsing.

AIŌN has been co-commissioned by Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra and Iceland Symphony Orchestra which will perform the work in its 19/20 season.




Watch the Iceland Symphony Orchestra's recent performance of METACOSMOS — Thorvaldsdottir's last orchestral work, inspired by the idea of falling into a black hole. It is an eerie, atmospheric work that explores the natural balance between beauty and choas.


Thinking big... six more works that stretch the orchestral canvas

Tan Dun Buddha Passion (2018) 97'
soprano, alto, tenor, baritone, indigenous female voice, indigenous male voice, Dunhuang player and dancer; boys chorus, SATB chorus3(afl,pic).2+ca.2+bcl.2+cbn/4331/timp.4perc/hp/str

Premiered at Dresden Musikfestspiele in 2018, Tan Dun’s all-encompassing work tells the story of the Buddha in six acts.

Olivier Messiaen Éclairs Sur L'Au-Delà (1988-91) 75'
6+3pic.afl.3+ca.6+2ebcl+bcl+cbcl.3+cbn/6.3+2ptpt.3.2+cbtba/10perc/str

Premiered posthumously at the New York Philharmonic’s 150th anniversary, Messiaen’s last completed work is an ecstatic vision of the afterlife for vast orchestra including an array of percussion.

John Corigliano Symphony No 1 (1988) 40'
4(3pic).3+ca.4(Ebcl[cbcl]:bcl[Ebcl])3+cbn/6542/timp.5[+]perc/hp.pf(off-stage pf)/str(4mdln)

Corigliano’s award-winning symphony confronts the AIDS epidemic of the 1980s and the composer’s “feelings of loss, anger and frustration”, universal themes which continue to resonate in the 21st century.

Magnus Lindberg Kraft (1985) 27’
clarinet (Eb, bcl, dbcl), 2 percussion, piano, cello, conductor4(4pic)+afl.3+ca.3(Ebcl)+bcl.asx.3+cbn/4441/4perc/2hp.pf(cel)/str; live electronics

Described by the New York Times as “lurching, intricate and sonically wondrous”, Lindberg’s pioneering work for soloists and orchestra with live electronics using amplification and spatialization is a visual - as well as aural - delight.

Per Nørgård Symphony No 3 (1972) 50'
SATB chorus; 3333/4331/4perc/2hp.pf/org/str

Written over the course of three years, Symphony No. 3 gives full expression to Nørgård’s pioneering ‘infinity series’ technique in a work which acknowledges its symphonic forebears whilst simultaneously leaving them far behind.

John Tavener Ultimos Ritos (1972) 50'
soprano, alto, tenor, bass; 4 SSATTBB choirs4(2afl)+6rec.4(2obda)00/4.10.4.0/timp.perc/amp ch org.amp hpd.g org/str(6.6.4.4.2), tape

The image of the cross inspires the structure, musical material and even layout of this landmark Tavener work, rich in musical symbolism.


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