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Clara’s Ascent (2019)

For string quartet or string orchestra featuring solo cello

String Quartet version premiered by The Chelsea Music Festival, New York, NY, on 6 June 2019, by the Eurus String Quartet.
String Orchestra version premiered by The Chelsea Music Festival, New York, NY, on 12 June 2019, Ken-David Masur conducting.
Duration: 6 minutes


To be performed with dancers when feasible.

Informal reference recording, String Orchestra Version


Ken-David Masur conducts the world premiere of CLARA’S ASCENT with the Chelsea Music Festival String Orchestra, 2020.

Program Note

Composers honoring composers that they love and admire, has led to the creation of countless works of repertoire. In many cases, a musical quotation of the older composer’s music is incorporated by the younger composer into their tribute composition. Thomas, though, does not use any Schumann quotes. Rather, this “ascent” is a deeply felt and evocative homage from one active female composer (A.R.T.) to another (C.S.) who, at the time of her creativity (1819 – 1896), was not afforded the same privileges as were given to male composers. Most of Schumann's music was never played by anyone other than her and largely forgotten until a resurgence of interest in the 1970s.

The ascending line, symbolizing Clara Schumann’s ascent, serves as protagonist as well as a fulcrum point, on and around which the other player's musical force-fields bloom, rotate, and proliferate. Thomas clearly paints the picture that Clara Schumann triumphs. In the end, the ascending line “wins.” Across an 8-minute crescendo the ascending line moves from the very lowest notes up to the highest possible notes, reaching optimistically as if trying to touch and embrace the sky.

Schumann and Thomas both started composing as young girls. Both married older male composers. Both create lyrical and intricately contrapuntal works which celebrates the manner in which the musicians embody sound. In CLARA’S ASCENT for string orchestra, musical transformations and carefully crafted connections unfold with a natural impulse. An optimistic, flexible-sounding, sonorous ascending journey weaves itself forward as if it is spinning innately out of the instruments. The sheer musicality of this composition is evocative of and rhymes with the musicality of Schumann’s sonic quests.

On the occasion of the 200th anniversary of the birth of Clara Schumann, this work honors the legacy and contributions of a pioneering performer, caring collaborator and artistic confidant.

CLARA'S ASCENT is dedicated with admiration and gratitude to Melinda Lee Masur and Ken-David Masur and to the Chelsea Music Festival. The World Premiere was given by the Chelsea Music Festival, June 12, 2019, in New York City.


Chelsea Music Festival Artistic Directors

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