READ THOMAS Selected Works for Orchestra
Despite the steady number of works that have appeared on various labels, Augusta Read Thomas (b1964) has not had the coverage her large and diverse output warrants, so this first of two discs from Nimbus could not be more welcome. The six pieces offer a viable perspective on her music over almost two decades, with the opening brace of orchestral works underlining the consistency of her thinking during that period. Thus Aureole (2013) is a sequence of fanfares both scintillating and evocative as it touches upon more inward emotions near its close, while Words of the Sea (1995) is a symphonic suite recalling the example (not the music) of two underrated post-war American figures – Jacob Druckman and Donald Erb – in its purposeful and virtuoso progress towards a luminous apotheosis.
The other four works all underline the range of Thomas’s music throughout the 2000s. In My Sky at Twilight is less a song-cycle than a scena whose vocal line binds together the diverse texts as surely as it guides the emotional trajectory of this eventful diptych from speculation to resolution, and Carillon Sky is a succinct violin concerto whose orchestral component similarly feels an extension of the ethereal solo part. Terpsichore’s Dream is a study in incremental rhythmic and textural change, gaining all the while in incisiveness and dynamism prior to its blissful close, while Silver Chants the Litanies pursues a more confrontational approach between horn and chamber orchestra that culminates in another rapt epilogue – though here the mood is more equivocal as the music recedes into silence.
The performances are as persuasive as expected given the involvement of such as Pierre Boulez and Oliver Knussen, while the quality of sound and the extensive booklet-notes are added enhancements. One can only await Vol 2 of this series with impatience.