In his final year of undergraduate study at Nottingham University, Adrian Thomas conducted the Opera Society in six performances of Verdi’s Ernani. On 25 June 1969, with fellow conductor Donald Goodhew and the University Chamber Choir and Orchestra, he gave the UK premiere of Lutosławski’s Trois poèmes d’Henri Michaux (1963).
In Belfast, he continued to promote Polish music, conducting performances, many of them also national premieres, of works including Szymanowski’s Stabat Mater in Polish (left, 1980), Veni Creator and Litany of the Virgin Mary, Górecki’s Three Pieces in Old Style and Harpsichord Concerto, Kilar’s Orawa, and Lutosławski’s Variations on a Theme of Paganini for piano and orchestra and his Preludes and Fugue, the latter with members of the Ulster Orchestra. In 1997, as part of the ‘Breaking Chains’ festival at London’s Barbican Centre, he conducted an open workshop on the two versions of Lutosławski’s Jeux vénitiens with the GSMD postgraduate chamber ensemble (he had discovered the missing first version the previous year).
In 1977 he conducted performances of Webern’s Concerto for Nine Instruments through an audio investigation of the recently published sketches. That same year he directed members of the BBC Northern Ireland Orchestra in ‘A Question of Interpretation’, an award-winning radio exploration of Stockhausen’s wind quintet Adieu, and in 1979 he conducted them again in Stravinsky’s The Soldier’s Tale. In 1979-80 he conducted extensively with the Ulster Orchestra in public concerts (mainly 18th-century repertoire) and educational programmes working, amongst others, with Johnny Morris.
He made his TV debut as a singer, on BBC TV’s Understanding Music in Spring 1967, one of eight students performing part of Tallis’s Lamentations, directed by Ivor Keys. He sang in, and later directed, a madrigal group in Belfast in the mid-1970s and was chorus-master of the Queen’s Festival Chorus in the early 1980s.
Adrian Thomas conducted the Queen’s University choirs and orchestras on many occasions, with non-Polish repertoire including:
• Bartók: The Miraculous Mandarin (suite) and Piano Concerto 3
• Beethoven: Calm Sea and a Prosperous Voyage, Overture Leonora 3 and Symphonies 5 and 9
• Bernstein: Overture to Candide
• Brahms: Tragic Overture
• Britten: Suite on English Folk Tunes ‘A Time There Was …’ and Te Deum in C
• Copland: Quiet City and Appalachian Spring
• Dvořák: Symphony 5 in F
• Finzi: Ode to St Cecilia
• Gershwin: Piano Concerto
• Handel: Dixit Dominus and Laudate pueri Dominum
• Holst: The Planets
• Ives: From the Steeples and the Mountains
• Kodály: Budavári Te Deum
• Liszt: Hungarian Rhapsody 2 and Prometheus
• Mahler: Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen
• Monteverdi: Ballo delle ingrate
• Mozart: Great Mass in C minor
• Poulenc: Figure humaine (excerpts)
• Prokofiev: Alexander Nevsky (in Russian)
• Rakhmaninov: The Bells (in Russian)
• Shostakovich: Festive Overture and Symphony 15
• Sibelius: Rakastava (in Finnish), Pohjola’s Daughter and Symphony 7
• Strauss: Tod und Verklärung and Horn Concerto 1
• Stravinsky: Fireworks and The Faun and the Shepherdess
• Varèse: Intégrales
• Vaughan Williams: Toward the Unknown Region
• Wagner: Prelude to Tristan und Isolde
During his time at Cardiff University, he directed several programmes with the School of Music’s Contemporary Music Group, including a concert devoted to the music of Górecki which was also toured to Bath (1997), a programme of music by lesser-known Polish composers including four UK premieres – Bogusław Schaeffer’s Non Stop, Zygmunt Krauze’s Polychromia, Witold Szalonek’s Improvisations sonoristiques, Tomasz Sikorski’s Sickness unto Death*, Paweł Mykietyn’s At Radek’s*, Hanna Kulenty’s Rainbow 3* and Lidia Zielińska’s Nobody is Perfect* (2005), and a concert to celebrate the 75th birthday of Sir Peter Maxwell Davies, including his Missa super L’homme armé (2009).