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Apollo’s Riddles (2024)

For string quartet

Premiered by Quatuor Diotima (Yun-Peng Zhao, Léo Marillier, Franck Chevalier, and Alexis Descharmes) Paris, France on 17 January 2024.)
Commissioned by Commissioned by Quatuor Diotima and Philharmonie de Paris
Duration: 9 minutes

To be performed with dancers when feasible.
Program Note

Music for me is an embrace of the world, a way to open myself to being alive in the world -- in my body, in my sounds, and in my mind. I care deeply about musicality, imagination, craft, clarity, dimensionality, an elegant balance between material and form, and empathy with the performing musicians as well as everyone who works in the presenting organizations.

Collaborating with the Quatuor Diotima is a treasured and an exhilarating experience. I am ever grateful to Yun-Peng Zhao, Léo Marillier, Franck Chevalier, and Alexis Descharmes, and to the many extraordinary colleagues of Cité de la musique-Philharmonie de Paris who have made this partnership possible.

In ancient mythology, Apollo is most known for being the God of The Sun and Light. In APOLLO’S RIDDLES, Apollo is imagined as an enchanter performing riddles.

Across APOLLO’S RIDDLES 9-minute duration, the composition unfolds a labyrinth of musical interrelationships and connections that showcase the musicians in a virtuosic display of rhythmic agility, counterpoint, skill, energy, dynamic range, timbre, clarity, and majesty. Throughout the kaleidoscopic journey, the work passes through many lively and colorful episodes, never losing its sense of dance, caprice, and effervescence.

APOLLO’S RIDDLES falls loosely into three arcs played without a pause. The opening three minutes is an exposition of animated materials with rhythmic vitality featuring contrapuntal hockets that ping-pong between players. Following are three contrapuntal phrases (lasting respectively 60, 120, and 90 seconds) throughout which the musical ingredients are further transformed and elaborated. The final 120 seconds, a mischievous caper, is a still further transfiguration of the riddles.

Commissioned by Quatuor Diotima and Philharmonie de Paris, the world premiere took place as part of the 11th String Quartets Biennale on 17 January, 2024 in the Cité de la musique, Paris. APOLLO’S RIDDLES is dedicated with admiration and gratitude to Quatuor Diotima.


Quatuor Diotima. Photo by Michel Nguyen.
Selected Reviews

Michèle Tosi, RESMUSICA, France, Janvier 19, 2024 L'énergie vitale avec les Diotima
“Energy, this living presence in the world that the American Augusta Read Thomas defends, is certainly a fundamental principle of her music. Apollo's Riddles, the tenth string quartet by the prolific composer, cannot deny this. It all begins with an intense vibration of sound maintained by the four strings. Everything contributes in the writing to projecting energy via an exacerbated tension of the subject: rhythmic overbidding, writing in relay of the four desks or strict homorhythm of the quartet to better understand the energetic impact. The performance is impressive under the sharp bows of the four musicians.”
(Translated by Google Translate.)

Bruno Serrou, Bruno Serrou Blog Spot, France, Janvier 24, 2024 "The premiere of Apollo's Riddles, commissioned the Diotima and the Philharmonie for the Biennale…, calling on the velocity of the four bows, as much technical as rhythmic, aptitude for coloring, dynamics, energy, but also dreaminess and suggestiveness.”
(Translated by Google Translate.)

To obtain examination or performance material for this
Augusta Read Thomas work, please contact Nimbus Music Publishing.