Composer Thomas Adès awarded the ISM Distinguished Award Musician 2019

The illustrious composer, pianist and conductor Thomas Adès has been awarded the ISM Distinguished Musician Award 2019 for his services to music.

Established in 1976, the award recognises outstanding contributions to musical life in the UK. Only one award is made each year and previous recipients include Sir Antonio Pappano, Dame Felicity Lott, Sir William Walton, Sir Peter Pears, Sir Adrian Boult, Sir James Galway, Jacqueline du Pré OBE, Sir Michael Tippett, Sir Charles Groves, Sir Simon Rattle, Norman Del Mar CBE, Sir Colin Davis, Christopher Hogwood OBE, Sir David Willcocks CBE MC, Dame Fanny Waterman DBE, Sir Peter Maxwell Davies CBE, Sir Charles Mackerras AC CH CBE, John McCabe CBE, Sir Malcolm Arnold, Pierre Boulez CBE, Dame Evelyn Glennie DBE, Dame Janet Baker DBE, Sir Mark Elder CBE, John Stephens OBE, Dame Sarah Connolly DBE, Judith Weir CBE, Julian Lloyd Webber, Dame Emma Kirkby DBE, Oliver Knussen CBE, Kathryn McDowell CBE DL and John Wilson.

The ISM Distinguished Musician Award is always dated the year before it is awarded to correspond with the term of the ISM President.

Of receiving the award, Thomas Adès said:

'I feel truly touched to be honoured in this way. It means all the more to me to be singled out by a community of fellow professional practising musicians; my music-making colleagues.'

Dr Jeremy Huw Williams, ISM President 2019-20, said:


'I have known Tom since our Cambridge days, and singing the role of Sebastian in his opera The Tempest in 2004 was a highlight in my career. His talent as a composer is unique, he is an excellent conductor and also a virtuoso pianist and sensitive accompanist. As such he was my absolute first choice for the ISM Distinguished Musican Award, and as President of the ISM it gives me great pleasure to present this Award to him today at the Royal Opera House in London.'


Thomas was awarded the ISM Distinguished Musician Award in a private ceremony at the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden, London on Monday 3 February 2020.

About Thomas Adès

Thomas Adès was born in London in 1971. Renowned as both composer and performer, he works regularly with the world’s leading orchestras, opera companies and festivals.

His compositions include three operas : the most recent of which The Exterminating Angel premiered at the 2016 Salzburg Festival and subsequently has been performed at the Metropolitan Opera, New York and the Royal Opera House, London all conducted by the composer; The Tempest (Royal Opera House and Metropolitan Opera); and Powder Her Face. His orchestral works include Asyla (CBSO, 1997), Tevot (Berlin Philharmonic and Carnegie Hall, 2007), Polaris (New World Symphony, Miami 2011), Violin Concerto Concentric Paths (Berliner Festspiele and the BBC Proms, 2005), In Seven Days (Piano concerto with moving image - LA Philharmonic and RFH London 2008), Totentanz for mezzo-soprano, baritone, and orchestra (BBC Proms, 2013), and Concerto for Piano and Orchestra (Boston Symphony Orchestra, 2019). His compositions also include numerous celebrated chamber and solo works.

Thomas Adès has been an Artistic Partner of the Boston Symphony Orchestra since 2016 and will conduct the orchestra in Boston and at Tanglewood, perform chamber music with the orchestra players, and lead the summer Festival of Contemporary Music. He coaches Piano and Chamber Music annually at the International Musicians Seminar, Prussia Cove.

As a conductor, Thomas appears regularly with the Los Angeles, San Francisco and London Philharmonic orchestras, the Boston, London, BBC and City of Birmingham, Symphony orchestras, the Royal Concertgebouworkest, Leipzig Gewandhaus and the Czech Philharmonic. In opera, in addition to The Exterminating Angel, he has conducted The Rake’s Progress at the Royal Opera House and the Zürich Opera, The Tempest at the Metropolitan Opera and Vienna State Opera, and Gerald Barry’s latest opera Alice’s Adventures Under Ground in Los Angeles (world premiere) and in London (European premiere). In the 2019-20 season Thomas has a residency with the Royal Concertgebouworkest and also conducts the London and Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestras and makes his debut with Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra. In the USA, he returns to the Los Angeles and Boston Symphony Orchestras. Thomas also returns to the Royal Opera House twice this season, to conduct Barry’s Alice’s Adventures Under Ground and the premiere of his new ballet The Dante Project.

His piano engagements include solo recitals at Carnegie Hall (Stern Auditorium), New York and the Wigmore Hall in London, and concerto appearances with the New York Philharmonic. This season will see the release of his album of solo piano music by Janacek and he will also join Simon Keenlyside in a recital of Schubert’s Winterreise at the Vienna State Opera.

His many awards include the Grawemeyer Award for Asyla (1999); Royal Philharmonic Society large-scale composition awards for Asyla, The Tempest and Tevot; and Ernst von Siemens Composers' prize for Arcadiana; British Composer Award for The Four Quarters. His CD recording of The Tempest from the Royal Opera House (EMI) won the Contemporary category of the 2010 Gramophone Awards; his DVD of the production from the Metropolitan Opera was awarded the Diapason d'Or de l'année (2013), Best Opera recording (2014 Grammy Awards) and Music DVD Recording of the Year (2014 ECHO Klassik Awards); and The Exterminating Angel won the World Premiere of the Year at the International Opera Awards (2017). In 2015 he was awarded the prestigious Léonie Sonning Music Prize and in Spring 2020 he will receive the Toru Takemitsu composition award at Tokyo Opera City where he will conduct a concert of his own music.

About the ISM

The Incorporated Society of Musicians (ISM) is the UK's professional body for musicians and a nationally recognised subject association for music. Since 1882, we have been dedicated to promoting the importance of music and protecting the rights of those working in the music profession. We support approximately 10,000 musicians across the UK and Ireland with our unrivalled legal advice and representation, comprehensive insurance and specialist services. Our members come from all areas of the music profession and from a wide variety of genres and musical backgrounds. We campaign tirelessly in support of musicians’ rights, music education and the profession as a whole. We are a financially independent not-for-profit organisation with no political affiliation. This independence allows us the freedom to campaign on any issue affecting musicians.