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Magic Gardens (2020)

For string quartet

Commissioned by the McCollin Fund and the Musical Fund Society of Philadelphia in celebration of the organization’s Bicentennial
First performance by The Rolston String Quartet 1 May 2022 at the Perelman Theatre in the Kimmel Center, Philadelphia
Duration: Movement #1: 7'40"; Movement #2: 4'


Movement #1: Scherzo - live unedited performance

Movement #2: Celebration - live unedited performance


Movement #1: Celebration of Magic Gardens performed by the Terra String Quartet in Guarneri Hall, Chicago, IL.

Program Note

Inspired by Isaiah Zagar, award-winning mosaic mural artist of MAGIC GARDENS in Philadelphia, my thanks are given with this composition for Zagar’s montage of humankind’s mutual celebration of life, creativity, human experiences of justice, love, joy, emotional health, knowledge, and beauty; and for insights into the nature of expression and of being. Music's eternal quality is its capacity for change, transformation and renewal. I am honored and thrilled to have received to a Musical Fund Society McCollin Commission and send my gratitude to the Fund and to the Rolston String Quartet for their commitments to music’s renewals. Movement #1 is in celebration of Naava and Sanford Grossman. Movement #2 is in celebration of Jeanne Guillemin.

— Augusta Read Thomas

On a concert program, the work should be listed as:

MAGIC GARDENS for string quartet (2020)     Augusta Read Thomas (1964)


Movements can be played together, or each movement can be played as an independent composition. If played independently, they should be listed on a concert program as:

MAGIC GARDENS for string quartet (2020)     Augusta Read Thomas (1964)

Movement #1: Scherzo
Movement #2: Celebration

Selected Reviews

Louis Harris, Third Coast Review March 11, 2024 "We were treated to “Celebration” from Magic Gardens, a suite by Augusta Read Thomas. What struck me is how much it felt like a fanfare, with bright and loud sections followed by quieter contrapuntal passages that Terra Quartet played with precision. They shone bright on this piece."

Margaret Darby Broad Street Review, May 3, 2022 "Thomas wrote Magic Gardens as her Philadelphia theme, a soundscape inspired by artist Isaiah Zagar’s Magic Gardens. Just as Zagar’s mosaics reflect prismatic scatterings of light on shards of glass and mirrors, Thomas crafted shards of melody peppered with pizzicato. The second movement, “Celebration,” was a warm, lush, harmonically rich section of longer note values and chord progressions. Thomas and Zagar were in the audience for the premiere."

Peter Dobrin The Philadelphia Inquirer. April 30, 2022 HEADLINE: The Musical Fund Society of Philadelphia celebrates its 200th birthday with a set of new Philly-centric works.
"The first movement of Thomas’ work is called “Scherzo” and uses a theme like a mosaic, with instruments answering each other, and the theme goes through a series of variations. “The variations are very imaginative. They’re short, but you never quite know what I’m going to do next, and that’s exactly like the Magic Gardens, because you turn the corner and you don’t know what you’re going to see,” Thomas said.
“Ceremonial,” the second movement, has a spiritual feel, and Thomas embeds the movement with ornaments, “almost like you’re trying to capture the whole vibe of somebody spending a life creating this work.
Thomas says the Magic Gardens appealed to her with its “intricacy and the fantasy and the sort of handcrafted, every-little-piece-put-together- perfectly-with-the-hands-of-the-artist [aspect], and the plethora of different kinds of things floating around.”
The place has color, flair, caprice, and even humor, she says.
“And yet, it’s also a very serious place, the Magic Gardens, in the sense that it’s an epic, massive piece of art."

The Rolston Quartet

Julia Zagar, Isaiah Zagar and Augusta at the world premiere of MAGIC GARDENS

With Rolston String Quartet at dinner party after the world premiere performance

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