Augusta Read Thomas: The Auditions
Release Date: May 1, 2020
Label: Nimbus Records NI6402
Volume 8 in this series documenting Augusta Read Thomas' music, three major scores dominate, with 4 shorter works filling out this 80-minute sonic portrait of an inexhaustibly inventive and individual composer. The brass quintet Avian Capriccio is typically free-wheeling in its evocation of 3 contrasting types of birds, hummingbirds, swans and canaries. Scored for wordless soprano and string quartet, Plea for Peace acts as a single, seamless block beginning in near-immobility, with the voice animating the instruments as the music embarks on its slow, implacable progress. Even in a catalogue as multifarious as Thomas', the carillon piece Ripple Effects stands out as a one-off. Commissioned by Rockefeller Chapel, Chicago and devised in a number of versions, sculpted for carillons of three sizes, requiring varying numbers of players. The ballet score The Auditions was written for the Martha Graham Dance Company, and with it, Thomas joins a distinguished company of composers who wrote scores for this seminal figure in modern dance. It is structured in 7 sections, with the auditions of the title being the even-numbered, action-packed sections, and the odd-numbered ones acting as slower, more otherworldly frames. That Two Thoughts About The Piano's title should be identical to a work by Elliott Carter is no accident, as Thomas' work is a response to the older composer's piece without actually quoting or even emulating Carter's music. We've already encountered Selene in a previous volume of this ongoing survey of Thomas' music, but it appears here in a wholly new dress. The original was for string and percussion quartets, but here the strings are replaced by a woodwind nonet in an arrangement by Cliff Colnot, thus preserving the original's harmonic richness. Bringing this collection to a close, Your Kiss sets a love poem by e.e. cummings for soprano and piano.