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Canticle Weaving: Trombone Concerto #2 (2003)

For solo trombone and orchestra

solo trombone and 3+pic.3+EH.3+bcl.2 cbn/4.2Ctpt+1Bbpictpt.2([btbn]).1//4 perc./harp/strings
Premiered by the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Ralph Sauer, trombone, Esa-Pekka Salonen, conducting, in Los Angeles, California, 29 March 2003
Duration: 24 minutes

 
Program Note

My music must be passionate; involving risk and adventure such that any given musical moment may seem surprising when first heard but, a millisecond later, seems inevitable. I think of my music as nuanced lyricism under pressure! That said, my primary artistic concern is to communicate in an honest and passionate voice, being faithful to my deepest inner promptings and creative urges. This way, any willing listener, irrespective of prior musical knowledge, training or background can engage with my music.

Every listener brings their own unique perspective to the listening process. In Canticle Weaving I offer them aesthetic engagements with the world and with themselves as I, too, undertake a mission of self-discovery. Music of all kinds constantly amazes, surprises, propels and seduces me into wonderful and powerful journeys. I care deeply that music is not anonymous and generic - easily assimilated and just as easily dismissed and forgotten. Canticle Weaving has passionate, urgent, seductive and compelling qualities of often complex (but always logical) thought allied to sensuous sonic profiles.

My favorite moment in any piece of music is that of maximum risk and striving. Whether the venture is tiny or large, loud or soft, fragile or strong, passionate, erratic or eccentric — the moment of exquisite humanity and raw soul! All art that I cherish has elements of order, mystery, love, recklessness and desperation. For me, music must be alive and jump off the page and out of the instrument as if SOMETHING BIG IS AT STAKE.

This artistic credo leads me to examine small musical objects (a chord, a motive, a rhythm, a color) and explore them from many perspectives. These different perspectives reveal new musical potentials which develop the musical discourse. In this manner, and in Canticle Weaving in particular, the music takes on an organic, circular, self-referential character which, at the same time, has a forward progression.

Taking this notion further, I have frequently been interested in reexamining musical objects across different works. Canticle Weaving reexamines musical elements which have permeated my music for the past several years in a wide variety of pieces, for example - Rise Chanting, Eagle at Sunrise, Orbital Beacons, Ceremonial, Prayer Bells, Trainwork, Light the First Light of Evening and, most recently, In My Sky at Twilight. For this reason, the title Canticle Weaving has a personal meaning - it is the end of the song that has laced its way through five or six years of my compositional life. Canticle Weaving brings to a close this chapter — it was like writing the final book in a sequel of interrelated novels. In future works the language, passion, colors and processes of my music will remain but I will search for new and challenging perspectives.

This work is dedicated with affection, admiration and gratitude to Esa-Pekka Salonen, Ralph Sauer, Ed Yim, and the Los Angeles Philharmonic.

—Augusta Read Thomas
January 2003
Chicago, IL

 
Selected Reviews

Mark Swed, Los Angeles Times, 31 March 2003 "In Canticle Weaving, the concerto for trombone commissioned by the Los Angeles Philharmonic from Augusta Read Thomas, the trombone maintains a noble bearing but is not afraid to swing. In listening to its premiere, conducted by Esa-Pekka Salonen at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion on Saturday night, I heard in the solo line the commanding voice of an uncommon leader — astute, steadfast, courtly and a good dancer. Kofi Annan came to mind.

"Canticle Weaving begins with a sweeping rhetorical melody for the trombone that contains a couple of racy touches in its flicker of shimmying rhythm and suggestive grace notes. The orchestra through this first part, titled "Star Song," teases and entices the aristocratic soloist. Thomas, an enthusiastic composer born in 1964, has quick compositional responses. Every minute or two, she hits an orchestral refresh button, placing the soloist in a new environment. The winds might chirp excitedly upon hearing a three-note phrase from the trombone, whereas the strings might respond to the soloist with ghostly nature sounds.

"Nothing lasts very long, and the score is animated with exhortations for the players to be "blazing and passionate" or "spunky and intense" or "rhapsodic and lyrical." Thomas constantly asks them to speed up or slow down. But nothing comes out of nowhere; the orchestra regularly takes off from something heard in the trombone. And through it all, the trombone rises to these fleeting emotions without ever losing its dignity. ...[Canticle Weaving] was written to both Sauer's and Salonen's strengths, and the performance was outstanding. Sauer maintained the unceasingly eloquent lyricism, while Salonen encouraged a frisky virtuosity from the Philharmonic."

 

Alan Rich, LA Weekly, 10 April 2003 "There are more trombone concertos around than you'd think — even one by Rimsky-Korsakov — but this agreeable newcomer may be somewhat different, perhaps even a cut above the average. Sauer requested a lyrical kind of piece from Thomas, specifically one with a notable absence of that most timeworn of trombone mannerisms, the glissandos familiar from burlesque-theater bands and circuses. There are, indeed, no trombone slides in Gusty Thomas' new piece, and a rather appealing amount of melody. Some of the latter teeters on the edge of jazziness, and does so quite nicely. The piece bears the title Canticle Weaving; I'm not sure about "Canticle," but the "weaving," the way the soloist moves in and out of the ensemble, I found most attractive. The L.A. Times' Mark Swed found that the tone of the work put him in mind of the U.N.'s Kofi Annan; maybe so, but I think I heard a little Bing Crosby, too."

""I hate dead music," said the composer in her lively and informative pre-concert talk, and she should have no fears on that score from Canticle Weaving. Augusta Read Thomas couldn't have chosen better program mates to get her own music to kick up its heels and dance until dawn."

 

Esa-Pekka Salonen, Photo by Clive Barda

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