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FastNotes

  • Adès originally wrote Lieux retrouvés (Rediscovered Places) as a piano-cello duo for him and Steven Isserlis to play together. Last year Ades orchestrated the piano part, turning what was essentially a four-movement cello sonata into a cello concerto.

  • “The opening depicts the calm of still water – water that then muddies and swirls before again relaxing and expanding into a crashing wave,” Isserlis wrote in his notes for the CD.

  • “The second movement portrays mountaineers as well as mountains, their footsteps crunching on the paths. The movement functions as a scherzo, with a trio section representing particularly hardy climbers, yodeling as they trudge…”

  • “The slow movement takes us to a peaceful field at night, the animals at rest, their breath rising to heaven…The finale is best described by its subtitle, ‘Cancan macabre’; all brilliant lights, flirtatious naughtiness, and grotesque over-excitement.”


Composed: 2009; orchestrated 2016
Length: c. 17 minutes
Orchestration: 2 flutes (2nd = piccolo), oboe, clarinet in A, bass clarinet, bassoon, contrabassoon, horn, trumpet, trombone, percussion (crotales, vibraphone, glockenspiel, marimba, xylophone, triangle, tambourine, guero, 2 cowbells, swanee whistle, police whistle, siren whistle, lion’s roar, washboard, hi-hat cymbal, suspended cymbal, tam-tam, side drum, tenor drum, kit bass drum), harp, piano (= celesta), strings, and solo cello

First Los Angeles Philharmonic performances (U.S. premiere)

Adès originally wrote Lieux retrouvés (Rediscovered Places) as a piano-cello duo for him and Steven Isserlis to play together. They premiered it at the Aldeburgh Festival in 2009, and recorded it three years later for Hyperion. Last year Ades orchestrated the piano part, turning what was essentially a four-movement cello sonata into a cello concerto. Isserlis again played the premiere, with Adès conducting the Lucerne Symphony Orchestra.

“I don’t know why it is that the cello of all instruments makes one dream of ‘Elsewhere’ when one hears it,” Adès said in the booklet for the recording. “Perhaps because the colors are so rich and wide-ranging, one can dream and find oneself in a different place.”

The “places” of the title are evoked musically: rippling figuration growing to a flood of water in “Les eaux,” a powerfully striding climb up a mountain in “La Montagne,” the calm expanse of the fields in “Les Champs,” and the jittery urban dance of the city in “Le Ville.” So these are genuinely descriptive pieces, like the tone poems by Sibelius and Saint-Saëns, but they also form the movements of a traditionally conceived sonata.

“The opening depicts the calm of still water – water that then muddies and swirls before again relaxing and expanding into a crashing wave,” Isserlis wrote in his notes for the CD.

“The second movement portrays mountaineers as well as mountains, their footsteps crunching on the paths. The movement functions as a scherzo, with a trio section representing particularly hardy climbers, yodeling as they trudge. I was a bit worried by the dramatic end of this movement, concerned that a mountaineer had fallen off the mountain; but I was reassured to learn that it represented merely the defiant planting of a flag.

“The slow movement takes us to a peaceful field at night, the animals at rest, their breath rising to heaven (rather riskily represented by the highest notes I’ve ever had to play lyrically).

“The finale is best described by its subtitle, ‘Cancan macabre’; all brilliant lights, flirtatious naughtiness, and grotesque over-excitement. ‘A romp,’ as the composer innocently described it before he dared send me the music…”

The “rediscovered” aspect of the pieces is probably not a matter of the physical locations as much as the means of expression, an acquaintance renewed in music of revisited techniques and styles. The patterns of “Les eaux,” for example, suggest not only the cross-rhythms of Minimalism and the counterpoint of Ligeti, but also the broken style of Adès’ beloved Couperin.

Gramophone Magazine named the recording of the piano-cello version Recording of the Month in December 2012. Critic Arnold Whittall wrote that Adès’ Lieux retrouvés “steps aside from the relatively lush sonorities and expansive designs of such recent orchestral works [by Adès] as Tevot and Polaris to revisit the concentrated allusiveness and memorably disconcerting blend of the ironic and the nostalgic that distinguish some of his earlier chamber pieces.”

John Henken is Publications Editor for the Los Angeles Philharmonic Association.