3 Berceuses for Viola and Piano | REVIEW | New works showcased in an immersive film

By Rosie Olver

On the 19th May 2022 Thomas Adès premiered his newest composition 3 Berceuses for viola and piano. The work was debuted with a stunning film depicting Adès at the piano alongside world renowned violist Lawrence Power. The film, directed by Jessie Rodger, depicts the pair performing in a sleepy London home at dusk. Floor to ceiling windows look out on to a serene, green garden, as the two men perform in the last few minutes of sunlight. The video’s warm tones and frequent nods to nature reflect both the players’ organic sense of ensemble and their tender use of sound.

The first lullaby is somewhat melancholic in mood. Power impressively utilises whispering harmonics and hushed dynamics without once losing clarity of sound. This, combined with Adès’s gently winding chordal accompaniment, instills in the work a real sense of intimacy.

The second lullaby takes the listener somewhere entirely different, as Power explores a more full-bodied colour palette. The viola’s rich sonority is highlighted further by the piano’s use of bell-like chords in high registers. Despite the use of dissonant double stopping and twisting harmonies, moments of lightness and resolution continually shine throughout. This is mirrored by the spots of sunlight that interrupt their dimly-lit performance space. The use of fast paced trills towards the end of the work creates an electrically energetic effect, before slipping away in to total silence.

The final movement is the most typical Berceuse of the three. Sweet and song-like, Adès has created an incredibly tender and moving work. In the film we see Adès and Power breathe in unison, and their frequent use of silence provides space for the listener to bask in the composition’s sense of peace. The use of silvery-sounding high pitches and gentle rocking rhythms capture the true essence of a lullaby. An enchanting ending to a trio of thoughtfully-recorded warm-hearted works. 

To watch the video, click here.

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