Augusta Read Thomas: Of Being Is A Bird

BBC Music Magazine Chamber Choice July 2016 *****

This CD, the sixth instalment in this series documenting Augusta Read Thomas' work in all its protean variety, is dominated by some of her most recent music. Except for the last 3 brief works on this programme, which date from 2004-06, the music gathered here dates from 2014-15, effectively turning this CD into a kind of compositional diary for these years.

The New Yorker Magazine called Thomas "a true virtuoso composer.” Rising early to the top of her profession, a member of both The American Academy of Arts and Letters and Academy of Arts and Sciences, former Chairperson of the American Music Center, Thomas has become one of the most recognizable and widely loved figures in American Music. A Member of the Conseil Musical of the Foundation Prince Pierre of Monaco, she has won a Grammy and received the Ernst von Siemens Music Prize. Her composition Astral Canticle was one of two finalists for the 2007 Pulitzer Prize in Music.



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“Although only setting two poems, Of Being is a Bird itself and The most triumphant Bird I ever knew or met, Thomas has crafter a cleverly miniaturized scena in two contrasting sections.  The first, slow, part depicts nature filtered through human wonder, in open, improvised-sounding harmonies, high plucked harp and instrumentation lines that followed Booth’s pellucid soprano.  The second part is woman as bird, Dickinson’s “intimate delight” taking flight in rapid syllables and flickering textures.  It’s a crowded market depicting birds in music but Thomas has found room in the nest.”  The Times, London

"This enjoyable anthology of recent music by the American composer Augusta Read Thomas comes right up to date with Of Being Is A Bird, recorded at its premiere in London last July. It's a setting for soprano and ensemble of two Emily Dickinson poems about birds: it begins with airy, luminous sonorities, but an instrumental interlude gives it an infusion of energy that lasts to the end. The same sense of purposful motion runs through the DNA-inspired string quartet Helix Spirals, which progresses gradually from scattered pizzicatos to bowed unanimity, and Selene, for percussion and string quartets, which depicts the moon goddess's journey across the skies with irresistible forward drive, pausing only for moments of radiant beauty. Claire Booth and Aurora capture the poetry and liveliness of the Dickinson settings, the Parker Quartet are impressively assured in Helix Spirals, and Third Coast Percussion and the Spektral Quartet interlick with exhilarating precision in Selene."  ***** BBC Music Magazine Chamber Choice July 2016

“Augusta Read Thomas was fifty last year (2014), and in the wake of her birthday this CD, plus three others, have emerged on Nimbus Alliance. They enable us to take a grand overall view of her style and language… this latest one has a variety of young performers. How lucky she has been to have a company who is so much on her side and performers who are more than willing to bring her work, so brilliantly, to a wider, European public. Although this new disc is marked as ‘Music for Strings’ it is more a miscellaneous disc — a mopping up exercise you might say — of pieces that did not quite fit on previous discs. For me this is the best so far… an exciting CD.”

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