I had extremely high expectations for this evening of music at the Concertgebouw; I’m a huge Thomas Adès fan and ever since I’d seen Leila Josefowicz play Esa-Pekka Salonen’s violin concerto I was more than impressed with her. Three Dutch premières of Thomas Adès’s music, as well as his debut as a conductor for the Concertgebouworkest certainly made an inspiring billing. Fortunately my expectations were not only met, it turned out to be a magical evening.

Matthijs Vermeulen is an oft-ignored Dutch composer, whose work hadn't been played by the Concertgebouworkest since 1978. De Vliegende Hollander (The Flying Dutchman) is a work written in 1930 for chorus and orchestra, but in 1950 Vermeulen made a suite of the piece – he scrapped the vocal parts and cut it into four pieces. Listening to it, I could not help but wonder why Vermeulen’s work is performed so little in The Netherlands. Although the string sections were not that interesting, whenever the woodwinds and percussion became involved, the music became sweeping and exhilarating, exactly how a piece of music about a pirate ghost ship ought to sound.

But of course the three Dutch premières of works by Thomas Adès were the highlights of the evening. First of was his violin concerto Concentric Paths, performed by Leila Josefowicz. The work consists of three movements, but is still structurally different from a lot of traditional violin concertos. The first movement ‘Rings’ is much more like a scherzo, with its fast, speedy rhythms and virtuoso playing. The second movement is arguably the most beautiful. Starting with a dialogue between the violin playing a chaconne and woodwinds, it soon transforms into a slightly aggressive but moving slow movement. The violinist uses both the absolute highest registers and the lowest, but her playing remains beautiful. The third movement is perhaps the most rhythmically exciting, at the end it almost echoes Adès’s own Asyla. The concerto ends with a big bang, leaving the listener breathless and incredibly moved. Leila Josefowicz’s playing was exquisite, she embodied both the aggression and compassion that are so essential to this concerto.

Polaris is an orchestral work first performed in January of this year. The orchestration is lavish, one of the most interesting things is that there are four trumpets and three trombones placed all the way behind the orchestra. It’s typical Adès in some ways; the violins mostly play in the highest register, there are plenty of percussionists and there are moments when the pop- and jazz-music influence shines through. One moment in particular, when the xylophones and trumpets play a relaxing dance together is very reminiscent of bands such as Jaga Jazzist. The ending of Polaris is probably the most beautiful moments in any of the pieces played tonight. The strings take the forefront and the rest of the orchestra follow them in low, loud, powerful notes, eventually leading up to a beautiful climax that leaves you longing for more.

Thankfully there was more, in the shape of Tevot, another one-movement orchestral work, written by Adès in 2007. It starts off with whispering strings playing, once again, in high registers, but these high notes are quickly compensated by the low notes many other musicians are playing. The music turns into an organic whole until the xylophones and woodwinds start playing jumpy, flea-like music, fast and on edge. The brass, percussion and strings once again take over, and lead the orchestra to the sweeping, loud and incredibly exhilarating middle part of the piece. Tevot ends with a loud, proud, major chord, perfectly played by the Concertgebouworkest, who were in excellent form.

This was one of those concerts that make the listener, or at least me, glad to be alive and very grateful to having been there. Thomas Adès is rightly considered one of the most talented composers of our age, and it will surprise (and mostly disappoint) me if all three of these works do not become part of the standard orchestral repertoire.