LENOX >> In an innovation for the Boston Symphony Orchestra and Tanglewood, the BSO has appointed the leading English composer Thomas Adès to the newly created position of artistic partner.
Adès, 45, who is probably best known in the Berkshires for his Shakespearean opera "The Tempest," seen in the Met HD series in 2012, will join the BSO this fall in a leadership role as composer, conductor, pianist and chamber player. He comes to Tanglewood in those capacities, and as a teacher, for three years beginning in 2017. In 2018 and 2019, he will also serve as director of the Festival of Contemporary Music, curating the music to be played and overseeing performances.
The appointment was announced in conjunction with the announcement of the BSO's 2016-17 Boston season, which features music director Andris Nelsons on the podium for 14 of the 24 weeks.
"We've been building a relationship with Tom over a number of years," BSO artistic administrator Anthony Fogg said in a telephone interview. In the last 15 or 20 years, Fogg explained, Adès has emerged as "one of the most important and original composers of today. And alongside that has been his career as a very fine pianist and an excellent conductor."
By utilizing Adès (pronounced AHD-es) in multiple roles, the new position and title go beyond the composer-in-residence model employed by many orchestras. At the New York Philharmonic, for example, Esa-Pekka Salonen currently holds such a chair. The BSO has often had composers-in-residence at Tanglewood, though not in Boston.
Adès' music is highly regarded and often performed in Europe and the United States. In The Guardian, critic Tom Service has written that Adès "makes you hear things you thought you were familiar with as if they were completely new."
The BSO has performed several Adès works. In addition, he guest-conducted the BSO five years ago, "and the rapport with the orchestra," Fogg said, "was absolutely immediate. He greatly enjoyed working with them, likewise."
Discussions ensued, and the idea of a formal partnership "really just grew from there, to the point that a couple of years ago now he finally agreed to a commission for us, which was a tremendous thing because he's one of the most sought-after composers of today,"
The commissioned work is a piano concerto, to be premiered during the 2018-19 season with Kirill Gerstein as soloist.
In a formal statement, Adès said that from his first rehearsal with "this amazing orchestra," he "knew that we shared a musical wavelength, and in our subsequent meetings I've been gratified to sense the relationship deepening each time. It seems natural now to broaden the experience," extending it to "the unique 'total immersion' experience of Tanglewood."
The new venture in the second within months by the BSO. It follows the launch last September of a BSO artistic partnership, including cross-oceanic exchanges, with the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra in Germany. Nelsons also serves as its director.