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Venus Enchanted (2016)

For solo violin
[Also a version for solo viola]
[Also a version for solo cello]

Commissioned by Jennifer Koh with the generous support of Justus Schlicting, to whom this music is dedicated.
The viola version is dedicated to Justus Schlicting and Carol Rodland; The cello version is dedicated to Justus Schlicting and Scott Kluksdahl

Premiered as part of Jennifer Koh’s Shared Madness at National Sawdust Brooklyn, NY, 31 May 2016
Viola Version premiered by Carol Rodland in Knoxville, TN, 29 October 2016
Cello Version premiered by Scott Kluksdahl in Portland, OR, 10 March 2017
Duration: 5'30"


Listen to VENUS ENCHANTED as read (not performed in a concert) by Nathan Giem


Listen to VENUS ENCHANTED for solo cello as read (not performed in a concert) by Scott N. Kluksdahl

CD Available

This work is available on
Clarissa Bevilacqua plays Augusta Read Thomas

Program Note

Commissioned by Jennifer Koh with the generous support of Justus Schlicting, to whom the music is dedicated, VENUS ENCHANTED lasts 5 minutes and 30 seconds and was composed in 2015. It was premiered as part of Jennifer Koh’s Shared Madness Project in May 2016.

Although highly notated, precise, carefully structured, soundly proportioned, and while the musician is elegantly working from a nuanced, specific text, I like my music to have the feeling that it is organically being self-propelled – on the spot - as if we listeners are overhearing (capturing) an un-notated, deeply musical improvisation.

With VENUS ENCHANTED, I wanted to compose a short piece that “shows off” the player’s many talents: elegant soft playing, rich double stops, virtuosic music, athletic music, driving and passionate music, calm music, etc. I wanted to try to sculpt a short piece - but one with fertile variety of characters all woven together in a tightly integrated and organic composition –so as to illustrate a variety of colors in sublime string playing.

VENUS is the Roman goddess whose functions encompassed love, beauty, fertility, prosperity, victory, and desire.

About the Project

Jennifer Koh

Shared Madness is a project that tells the story of an amazing and generous community of fellow artists and friends who came to my aid at a time when I desperately needed their support and help.  Many of them witnessed the eight years during which I tried to raise funds in order to purchase a violin I could perform on for the remainder of my life.  When Elizabeth and Justus Schlichting, supporters of new music, stepped in to relieve a great deal of my debt and agreed to accept music commissions as payment instead of funds, my fellow community of artists came rushing to help. These composers have given me the great gift of writing a new work for me to help support this project and they come from a community of colleagues and friends with whom I have worked over the years. Shared Madness celebrates the support of these friends, encapsulates the intensity of the creative process shared between composer and performer, and ultimately reveals the incredible support network that exists between artists.

Each composer has offered to write a solo violin work exploring the relationship between the violinist and the instrument. While Paganini wrote a landmark set of 24 caprices that explored the relationship of virtuosity on the violin at the beginning of the 19th century, this group of composers will explore the meaning of virtuosity in the 21st century.  This new body of work will be premiered under the auspices of the New York Philharmonic’s 2nd Biennial in June 2016. These works will also be made available as a collection that will be published G. Schirmer Music Publishers.

I cannot find words to express my gratitude for my fellow artists’ incredibly moving acts of generosity and support and only hope that I can show thanks through dedicated performances and a continued advocacy of their music. As an extension of the idea of community that created Shared Madness, I hope to pay it forward by continuing to offer free performances of the composers’ works within the communities in which we work and live; and educational workshops for student composers and instrumentalists which encourage and support the intense relationship between composers and performers so that our “shared madness” will continue to inspire the next generation of artists.

Samuel Adams (United States, b. 1985)
Timo Andres (United States, b. 1985)
Matt Aucoin (United States, b. 1990)
Jean-Baptiste Barrière (France, b. 1958)
Derek Bermel (United States, b. 1967)
Lisa Bielawa (United States, b. 1968)
Daníel Bjarnason (Iceland, b. 1979)
David Bruce (United States, b. 1970)
Chris Cerrone (United States, b. 1984)
Anthony Cheung (United States, b. 1982)
Bryce Dessner (United States, b. 1976)
Philip Glass (United States, b. 1937)
Michael Gordon (United States, b. 1956)
John Harbison (United States, b. 1938)
Vijay Iyer (United States, b. 1971)
Gabriel Kahane (United States, b. 1981)
Phil Kline (United States, b. 1953)
David Lang (United States, b. 1957)
David Ludwig (United States, b. 1974)
James Matheson (United States, b. 1970)
Missy Mazzoli (United States, b. 1980)
Eric Nathan (United States, b. 1983)
Marc Neikrug (United States, b. 1946)
Christopher Rountree (United States, b. 1983)
Frederic Rzewski (United States, b. 1938)
Kaija Saariaho (Finland, b. 1952)
Sean Shepherd (United States, b. 1979)
Noam Sivan (Israel, b. 1978)
Augusta Read Thomas (United States, b. 1964)
Julia Wolfe (United States, b. 1958)

Sketch Available

To purchase a Sketch of VENUS ENCHANTED , please visit the Online Store.





William Harvey Blog: Hiland Mountain Correctional Facility At Hiland Mountain Correctional Facility on the second day of the Alaska week of our "What is American culture?" project, I performed for women who were intelligent, perceptive, engaged. They were also all string players: Kathryn Hoffer, the concertmaster of the Anchorage Symphony, leads an extraordinary string orchestra program at the prison.

After "Venus Enchanted" by Augusta Read Thomas, I asked them why Augusta gave it that title (I haven't had a chance to ask her). They discussed this at length. Some felt she was referring to the planet, another woman to the goddess in some fantastical garden, beset by fairies, and another woman commented on how intriguing it is that usually Venus is the one doing the enchanting, so the piece "turns the tables" on her.

The women were especially taken with "Three High Places" by Alaska's own John Luther Adams. One Alaskan Native woman from the North Slope said that she could close her eyes, see the tundra, and feel as though she were at home. "I haven't been home in 11 years."

The women also had good insights on what #americancultureis: one defined American culture as "freedom of expression, as long as it's legal." Another woman of east Asian background agreed and spoke out *against* the anti-free-speech agitation occurring on university campuses. Yet another woman expressed concern about the xenophobia of Donald Trump. All their comments were insightful and indicated that they are better informed and educated than many people not now in prison.

I asked the women to remember that they are more than musicians. By playing music, they offer connective experiences. You cannot truly make or listen to music without affirming our common humanity, since music has the capacity to affect us all. 

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