Composer–conductor Thomas Adès and the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra are examining various depictions of the underworld. New ballet music by Adès himself is juxtaposed with Stravinsky’s beautiful Orpheus and Liszt’s sensual First Mephisto Waltz.
Through the ages, humans have imagined the underworld in different ways. For the ancient Greeks, Hades was a complex underground world in which all sorts of punishments were meted out. And there was no escape – only the mythical musician Orpheus, who wanted to rescue his beloved and bring her back to the land of the living, was an exception. The story inspired Stravinsky to compose one of his most melodic ballets.
Thomas Adès is fascinated by the underworld, having led the Concertgebouw Orchestra in his own Totentanz in 2016. His new ballet is based on Dante’s Divine Comedy, which commences with a journey through Hell, consisting of nine circles of torment. Adès is conducting the Dutch premiere of the ‘Inferno’ movement.
In the first and best-known of his four Mephisto Waltzes, Liszt lets evil forces emerge: Mephisto, who has Faust in his demonic power, plays for him a seductive waltz in a village inn.