Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Working with Composers: Augusta Read Thomas

This is the first in a series of posts describing various performer-composer interactions.

August Read Thomas.  Photo © Young Lee
Augusta Read Thomas has held faculty positions at the Eastman School of Music and Northwestern University, and served for nine years as the Composer-In-Residence for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.  In 2009 she was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the highest formal recognition of artistic merit in the United States. 

Her music has been described as "striking in concept, texture and timbre."  "Thomas's music…fairly explodes with an extroverted boldness of utterance audiences and musicians alike find challenging yet immediate. It's music that doesn't sound like anybody else's — music that insists you pay attention."

My duo with cello has performed and recorded Lake Reflecting Stars with Moonrise by Augusta Read Thomas.  When we first approached Ms Thomas to obtain copies of the score, she couldn’t have been more enthusiastic about the prospect of us playing her music.  It is so nice to have composers really voice their appreciation for what performers do.  As we prepared the work, and performed it during our 2010-2011 season on concerts in Florida, Canada and China, we stayed in close touch with the composer.  She was also very eager to meet with Steven (my cellist) when they were both in New Haven, Connecticut working with the orchestra there  As a result of our feedback regarding the piece and, I’m sure, of her having now revisited the piece, she made a number of changes in the parts—changing rhythms, adding new notes, re-beaming rhythms.  Many of these changes were only finalized two weeks before our recording of the work.  Through this entire process, Ms Thomas was the epitome of the gracious, open, generous, and appreciative composer.  Such a joy to work with!!  So much so, in fact, she ingratiated us even more to her piece.

Look for the world premiere recording of Lake Reflecting Stars with Moonrise by Augusta Read Thomas on our new CD, Music for Saxophone and Cello, to be released in early 2012 on the Centaur label.