Orchestration: 5 flutes (3rd, 4th, & 5th = piccolos; 3rd = bass flute), 5 oboes (4th = English horn, 5th = bass oboe), 5 clarinets (2nd = E-flat clarinet, 4th = E-flat and A clarinets, 5th = contrabass clarinet), 4 bassoons, contrabassoon, 8 horns, 5 trumpets, 3 trombones, 2 tubas, timpani (2), percussion (bass drum, crotales, cymbals, glockenspiel, large gong, log drum, marimba, snare drum, tam-tam, tenor drum, tuned anvils, tuned gongs, tuned tins & pans, vibraphone, and xylophone), harp, piano (= celesta), and strings
First Los Angeles Philharmonic performances
Tevot was co-commissioned by the Stiftung Berliner Philharmoniker and the Carnegie Hall Corporation for Simon Rattle and the Berlin Philharmonic, who gave the world premiere in Berlin in February 2007 and the U.S. premiere at Carnegie Hall in November 2007.
“The title of this one-movement symphony, Tevot (tey-VOT), means, in Hebrew, bars of music,” Adès writes. “Also, in the Bible, (tey-VA) is the ark of Noah, and the cradle in which the baby Moses is carried on the river.”
“I liked the idea that the bars of the music were carrying the notes as a sort of family through the piece. And they do, because without bars, you’d have musical chaos. But I was thinking about the ark, the vessel, in the piece as the earth. The earth would be a spaceship, a ship that carries us - and several other species! - through the chaos of space in safety. It sounds a bit colossal, but it’s the idea of the ship of the world,” Adès told Tom Service in an interview for The Guardian.
“I thought of the piece as one huge journey, but in order to make that journey truthful, to give it movement, there had to be many quite sudden and instant changes of landscape.”
“It begins with eerily skittish high figurations in the strings that sound at once ominous and angelic,” Anthony Tommasini wrote in his New York Times review of the U.S. premiere. “Moaning swells emerge from the lower orchestra, and the music builds in intensity and complexity until, in an attempt to break free, a volley of 12-tone-like riffs wildly erupts, clearing away the angst. The piece segues into its most rhythmically agitated and harmonically gnashing episode.
“Then a passage of consoling music with sighing lyrical fragments begins, and you are sure the calming coda to the piece has arrived. Not so. Mr. Adès prolongs this episode for roughly half of the work’s nearly 25-minute length. He keeps coming up with new variants of layered harmony, instrumental sonorities and supple rhythmic figures that keep you hooked.”