READ THOMAS Music for Strings
The association between Augusta Read Thomas and Nimbus reaches a fourth volume devoted largely 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 this piece was initially written for flute. From the two sets of duos, Cantos for Slava (2007) idiomatically substitutes cello for viola over three highly contrasted pieces marking the 80th birthday of Rostropovich, while Rumi Settings (2001) are not ‘songs without words’ but rather instrumental paraphrases whose ruminative eloquence amply evokes and transforms the essence of the original poems.
The remaining two works depart from the stated concept; but this is no hardship when Jubilee (2010) is a ‘concerto for orchestra’ of no mean resource – its four movements focusing on brass, woodwind, strings and percussion respectively, while Dancing Galaxy (2004) is a tensile study for wind ensemble whose incisive interplay is more notable given the sombre stasis from which it emerges and to which it returns. Performances underline the virtuosity and skill with 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.