Born in London on March 1, 1971, Thomas Adès began his formal music education at age twelve at the Guildhall School of Music, where he studied piano, percussion, and composition under Erika Fox and Robert Saxton.
In 1988, he traveled to Hungary to continue his piano studies with György Kurtág, and while there, composed his first opus, Five Eliot Landscapes for soprano and piano. The following year, Adès won second prize in the BBC Young Musician of the Year competition and subsequently enrolled in King’s College at Cambridge University.
Following his first public piano recital in 1993, which featured his Opus 1, Adès enjoyed a rapid rise to fame. He was appointed composer-in-residence with the Hallé Orchestra in Manchester from 1993 to 1995, during which he composed his first orchestral work, …but all shall be well (1993), and his first string quartet, Arcadiana (1994), in addition to completing the orchestral commission, These Premises Are Alarmed, for the opening of Bridgewater Hall in 1996. During this time, Adès also received a commission from the Almeida Opera for his first operatic work: Powder Her Face was written as a chamber opera to a libretto by Philip Hensher and was premiered at the Cheltenham Festival in 1995.
Adès achieved international recognition in 1997 with his symphonic work, Asyla, composed for Sir Simon Rattle and the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra. Rattle championed the work on tour, and in 2002, programmed Asyla in his opening concert with the Berlin Philharmonic, a performance that was broadcast internationally on radio and television. The composer had subsequent successes in 2004 with his second opera, The Tempest, composed to a Shakespearean libretto by Meredith Oakes and premiered at the Royal Opera House in London; in 2005 with his Violin Concerto, written for Anthony Marwood and premiered at the Berliner Festspiele and BBC Proms; and in 2007 with his second orchestral commission for Rattle, Tevot, which was premiered in Berlin, New York, London, and Paris.
In addition to his prominence as an esteemed composer, Adès has also received critical acclaim as a pianist and conductor. He is respected as a foremost interpreter of not only his own works, but also those of Kurtág, Janácek, Nancarrow, Stanchinsky, Grieg, Busoni, Stravinsky, Schumann, Schubert, Ruders, Tchaikovsky, Barry, Berlioz, and Beethoven. He has been featured as a conductor with major orchestras and ensembles all around the world, including the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Boston Symphony Orchestra, London Philharmonic Orchestra, Royal Stockholm Philharmonic, BBC, Finnish, Dutch, Danish and North German Radio Symphony Orchestras, London Sinfonietta, Ensemble Modern, and the Athelas Ensemble. In 2012, he will conduct The Tempest at the Metropolitan Opera in New York City.
Adès continues to compose, perform, and collaborate. In 2008, he showcased his first work with video projection: In Seven Days for piano and orchestra was a collaboration with the Israeli-British video artist Tal Rosner, with whom Adès entered into a civil partnership in 2006. In 2011, he premiered a second string quartet, The Four Quarters, and a second videographic composition called Polaris.
Adès’ music, which is commended for its expressive brilliance and postmodernist sophistication, has been the focus of festivals in Helsinki, Salzburg, Paris, and Stockholm. He was resident composer with the Los Angeles Philharmonic during their 2005/2006 and 2006/2007 seasons and was appointed to the Richard and Barbara Debs Composers Chair at Carnegie Hall during their 2007/2008 season. He is also the recipient of countless composition prizes, most notably the Royal Philharmonic Society Prize (of which he is the only three time recipient) and the prestigious Grawemeyer Award (of which he is the youngest ever recipient).