Olivier Messiaen

Thomas Adès in all his aspects

Thomas Adès in all his aspects

International fame just doesn't happen to many classical composers. But when it does, it can strike like a runaway train.

Consider Thomas Adès. Hailed in his 20s as the heir to Benjamin Britten and more recently by the New York Times as maybe "the most accomplished overall musician before the public today," Adès has long been accustomed to accolades and the pressure of high expectations. But two years ago, when noises were first being made for coordinated festivities in different musical capitals to observe his 40th birthday, the British composer said that he felt a bit trapped.

"The first thing I thought was 'Really?' It all seemed so pompous or...

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