Augusta Read Thomas: Music for Strings
The first two volumes of this Augusta Read Thomas recording series focused on orchestral and chamber/ piano music respectively, and the third volume was a recording of a live 50th birthday concert presented by the New Haven Symphony. This fourth volume has yet a different focus: music primarily featuring strings and almost exclusively performed by young musicians. Thomas wrote: “If one were to shut one’s eyes while listening to this CD, one should imagine a stage full of passionate young musicians. Two of these performances are even taken from live, unedited concert recordings (Juilliard and Tanglewood). Thus this disc as a whole celebrates the skill and dedication of youthful musicians who play with utter commitment and flair.
The association between Augusta Read Thomas and Nimbus reaches a fourth volume devoted entirely to her music for strings. The media covered is accordingly wide - ranging from the expressive raptness drawn from solo violin in Incantation (1995), via the impulsive flights of fancy in Passion Prayers (1999) for cello and notably Schoenbergian sextet, to the cumulative intensity of Spirit Musings (1997), whose three movements lock violin and chamber ensemble together in a timbral and textural unity as makes it the more surprising that the piece was initially written for flute. (...) Performances underline the virtuosity and skill which Thomas writes for musicians - not least Spirit Musings and Jubilee, heard here in 'unedited live concert performances' of startling assurance - with the sound and annotations fully comparable to previous discs in this valuable series. Richard Whitehouse, Gramophone March 2015