AUGUSTA READ THOMAS (b.1964): Scat for Oboe, String Trio and Piano, A Circle Around the Sun for Piano Trio (Walden Chamber Players), 6 Piano Etudes (Amy Briggs), Double Helix (Munsueto Tribute) for 2 Violins (Janet Sung, Yuan-Qing), Ring Flourish Blaze for Piccolos and Brass (SMU Wind Ensemble; Jack Delaney), Pilgrim Soul for English Horn and 2 Violins (Robert Walters [cor anglé], Stefan Hersh, Steve Rose [violins]), Traces for Piano (Makiko Hirata), Toft Serenade for Violin and Piano (Charles Morey [violin], Frank Huang [piano]), Starlight Ribbons for Piano (Daniel Schlosberg).
Catalogue Number: 08Q083
Reference: NI 6261
Description: Thomas is a distinctive voice in American music, writing music in which rich harmony, usually based around tonal centers (even while sometimes straying pretty far from them) is a constant feature, alongside lively rhythmic energy and bright, colorful instrumentation. The 1996 piano Etudes pay tribute to six other composers, at once signalling Thomas' engagement with existing traditions and suggesting the kinds of influences that have meant the most to her, from the incisive rhythms of Bartok to the stillness of Feldman, the inventive tone-colors of Berio or the heightened color sense of Messiaen. These features are present throughout the works here, together with a tendency to include subtly jazzy allusions, as in Scat, in which the players treat their angular lines in the manner of scat singers, or the ghosts of the styles of great jazz pianists in Traces and the unpredictably restless Starlight Ribbons, a quarter-hour caprice full of kinetic energy, unmistakably Thomas' personal voice. The searingly brilliant Ring Flourish Blaze and the scintillant little trio have a sunlit playfulness, while Pilgrim Soul introduces a more somber note, in an extended, elegiacally plaintive wordless song, autumnal and introspective.