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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 18 January 2014
This collection of works spans a period of some 18 years. The booklet informs you when in this period a given piece was composed and so appreciate compositional development. The composer's web site indicates the high level of interest she has gained from many eminent musicians. There are some big names here with Pierre Boulez and Oliver Knussen, both well respected composers and orchestras such as the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.
There are some fascinating sounds here. The most recent composition, Aureole is shimmering in nature. I enjoyed "Words of the Sea" a four movement work and within that found "the ever-hooded, tragic gesture of the sea" and "mountainous atmospheres of the sky and sea - homage to Debussy" extremely atmospheric with a feeling of the isolation of the sea. You can appreciate the Mahlerian influences in "Silver Chants the Litanies" for French horn and 18 players. Wonderful horn playing.
The pieces are sufficiently varied to maintain interest. An excellent recording, informative notes and is a few seconds under 80 minutes.
Certainly this composer deserves to be better known on this side of the Atlantic.
It looks like a second CD will be released in Spring 2014 of chamber and piano works.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 1 February 2014
Augusta Read Thomas is a composer unknown to me before this release. She was born in Glen Cove, New York in 1964, and studied composition at Yale University and the Royal Academy of Music in London and is currently Professor of Composition at Chicago University.

This CD of 6 orchestral works range from 1995 - 2013 and provide a good indication of her style of composition. 'Aureole' for orchestra opens with a brass and percussive fanfare, which does not develop much over its 7+ minute span. It has insistent bell-like sonorities but without a recognisable melody to latch on to.

'Words of the Sea' is a 4 movement concerto for orchestra again features 'diamond-bright' sounds in both the percussion and high strings of the orchestra and give the impression of an edgy, storm-like scenario. The second movement provides a brief episode of calm before a fast scherzo of jagged random notes on brass and percussion take hold once again. The piece ends with a movement called '... mountainous atmospheres of sky and sea' and is in homage to Debussy. It certainly gives the listener a thrilling sea voyage to experience.

'In My Sky at Twilight' for soprano and ensemble presents Christine Brandes with two songs, 'Deeper than all roses' and 'Lament'. The title comes from a poem by Pablo Neruda but a number of other poets also feature and focus on love as its subject. Brandes has a fine, Straussian voice and she handles the moods of the texts well, creating an eerie, atmospheric mood. This is a lovely work.

'Carillon Sky' is a piece for winds, brass, percussion and string quartet as is less strident than the preceding orchestral works. Thomas calls it a violin concerto, but the violin is often exposed by sparse accompaniment.

'Terpsichore's Dream' is a work featuring n abundance of pizzicato strings and bell-like sonorities in a piece of balletic quality, hence its title using the Greek muse of dance. There is also a gamelan-like quality typical of Indonesia in this work.

The final work here is 'Silver Chants the Litanies' beginning with a fine horn solo before the 18 piece chamber orchestra joins in. The feel again is generally percussive and fanfare-like being a collection of disparate sounds that do not seem to be developed.

This is very difficult music to like at first hearing, but with perseverance, I'm sure I will grow to appreciate it in time.
If you're looking for something completely different in the contemporary classical scene, give it a try!
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on 17 January 2014
Having read the comprehensive and informative CD booklet by Paul Pellay that comes with this collection of music composed by Augusta Read Thomas between 1995 and 2013, it makes me even more ashamed that I had not heard her works before. Women composers are so few and far between, I should have! Her works are not necessarily easy to get into, but the effort is so well worth it. I was 'hooked' by the first track, called 'Aureole'. It's simply beautiful. Every hearing makes it more accessible and good to listen to. It's a composition from 2013, conducted by Cliff Colnot.

This CD is the first in a series planned to present the music of this composer who is much respected in her native USA and, due to her collaboration with many conductors and composers world-wide, her fame is by no means confined to Chicago, where she is currently one of the "University" Professors at the University of Chicago. If you're interested in exploring contemporary music, this CD is a good place to start. You'll need to concentrate a bit, but then should music be treated as wallpaper? I've never thought so, but we're all different, luckily, in our tastes and in what we look for in music.
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