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Aurora (2000)

For piano and chamber orchestra

solo piano and 2221/2210/strings
[also an optional soprano for the final 75 seconds]
Daniel Barenboim, solo piano and conductor Co-commissioned and premiered by the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, June 10, 2000
Duration: 15 minutes

Program Note

Conductor Daniel Barenboim

Commissioned by The Berlin Philharmonic and The Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Aurora, for solo piano and chamber orchestra, was premiered by the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, Daniel Barenboim pianist and conductor, on June, 10, 2000. The 15-minute work is dedicated with admiration and gratitude to Daniel Barenboim. The commission was made possible through the generosity of Cindy Sargent and Sally Hands as well as with support from The Louise Durham Mead New Music Fund. The composer expresses heartfelt appreciation to the commissioning parties. The work was also presented at the Proms in London in 2001. The subtitle is "...may our souls know no twilight..."

The five continuous sections set delicate, prayerful, and luminous sounds alongside episodes of spiky rhythmic energy in slow-fast alternation. Until the very final minute of the music, it moves towards a reconciliation of the two states. This music grows out of Mahler's universe. Webern's, Debussy's and Bartok's aesthetics inform this work as much as does a wide variety of jazz. The tightly-argued journey is colorful, bold, delicate, fragile, and passionate and the transformative nature of the musical elements imbues the piece with a sense of motion.

It is optional to end the work with bar 527. What this does, in effect, is to cut out the coda, which is mostly for soprano and temple gongs.

Selected Reviews

Berlin Philharmonic

Andrew Clements, Guardian Unlimited A class act comes to the Proms Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Barenboim London Brass Royal Albert Hall, London
"Aurora is a concerto for piano and small orchestra by the CSO's current composer-in-residence Augusta Read Thomas, written for Barenboim to conduct from the keyboard. Slowly decaying notes in the piano are contrasted with sharply attacked chordal sequences; it moves towards a reconciliation of the two ideas and then unexpectedly transcends them with a female voice that emerges to pronounce a final, mysterious benediction. Conception and execution are beautifully judged; Barenboim's and his orchestra's performance (the UK premiere) was exemplary."


My Classical Notes blog, by Hank Zauderer "I like [Aurora] because it gives me, as the listener, some new experiences that are not available in the music I know so well composed during the 1600-1900's...I found Aurora to be highly creative music, with unusual textures, colors, and echo chamber effects. I can't wait to learn some of [Thomas'] other music..."
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Augusta Read Thomas's works, please contact G. Schirmer Inc..