Augusta Read Thomas

Biography

Born: April 24, 1964; Glen Cove, NY  
"The desire to make music comes from very deep inside. The urge to make and share music . . . is a volcanic eruption throughout one's body . . . I write music that craves a listener."

Augusta Read Thomas is, in the best sense, an artist thrice obsessed. First, she must compose: writing music is no vocation, no following, but a physiological need. She's been doing it since she was four, and at this point it sustains her
Read more being as much as breath and sleep. Second, Thomas must communicate: her music is only one side of a story involving two parties, and in its lucent colors and brazen gestures one can almost sense what kind of listener she has in mind.

But another obsession fortifies Thomas and her work, a consistent, burning vision which seems to materialize in that space exactly between making and sharing music, in "the music itself." And this vision is perhaps best articulated not by musical discussions, but by the words of one poet on another. In a beautiful essay on Shelley, W.B. Yeats imagined that "voices would have told him how there is for every man some one scene, some one adventure, some one picture that is the image of his secret life." Yeats' imagined scene was meant to invoke a certain literary temperament, the lyric poet, but his words give a near-perfect portrait of Thomas' art as well. Her one scene is a wordless process; and her images aren't pictures, but objects-turned-timewards. Nonetheless, she follows a musical "light of one star," and does so with a small cosmology of intense images (voice, bell, sun, spirit) which she ever-purifies in work after work.

Augusta Read Thomas was born in Glen Cove, near New York City, in 1964, into a musical household; she recounts a childhood overflowing with sounds, the Beatles in one room and Bach in another. Beginning to compose early, she also studied trumpet and eventually enrolled at Northwestern University, studying under William Karlins and Alan Stout. She continued at Yale with the late Jacob Druckman, and then in England at the Royal Academy of Music. Since returning to the United States, her career has enjoyed consistent growth, including a professorship at the Eastman School of Music and an extended tenure as Composer-in-Residence with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. Some of Thomas' most brilliant orchestral works -- Words of the Sea, Orbital Beacons, Ceremonial, the piano concerto Aurora -- were all composed for the CSO, and she has done wonders for the city's new music scene.

What is Thomas' "some one scene"? Like most good music, hers tends to elude description, but if one had to take a leap, one could describe it as a soliloquy which splays into the light and line of many voices, or an imploring recitative -- that musical tone which insists "I must speak" -- that draws on its own implications and echoes until it kindles its own vigorous polyphony. In this process, the violin concerto Spirit Musings is an ideal archetype: its opening violin line, spidery and liquid, gradually enlists and entangles the entire ensemble in a volatile venture of expansion and contraction, elastic and intensely lyrical. The work's sound is also characteristic of Thomas' music: a swirl of thirds, sixths, and tritones envelopes the ensemble in the most radiant tintinnabulation, betraying Thomas' devotion to French music (Debussy, Messiaen, Boulez), but also to the great contrapuntalists (Bach and Byrd). But in their "finite infinity," the concise, intimate breath of her gestures confess great sympathy with Mahler and her favorite poet, Emily Dickinson. Read less
Browse 1-25 of 44 Available Recordings
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  • 1.
    Vanishing Point
    Label: Ravello   Catalog: 7948 Release Date: 11/18/2016   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Ton Verhiel,  Guy de Lioncourt,  Augusta Read Thomas,  Denis Bédard  ... 
    Performer:  Lottie Enns-Braun,  Allen Harringson
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  • 2.
    Alarm Will Sound Presents Modernists
    Label: Cantaloupe   Catalog: 21117 Release Date: 04/29/2016   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  John Lennon,  Charles Wuorinen,  Wolfgang Rihm,  Augusta Read Thomas  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Alarm Will Sound
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  • 3.
    Dawn to Dust / Fischer, Utah Symphony
    Label: Reference Recordings   Catalog: 719 Release Date: 04/08/2016   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Augusta Read Thomas,  Nico Muhly,  Andrew Norman
    Performer:  Colin Currie
    Conductor:  Thierry Fischer
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Utah Symphony Orchestra
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  • 4.
    Thomas: Of Being Is a Bird
    Label: Nimbus   Catalog: 6323 Release Date: 04/08/2016   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Augusta Read Thomas
    Performer:  Nathan Giem,  Claire Booth,  Nathan Cole,  Nicola Melville
    Conductor:  Nicholas Collon
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Parker String Quartet,  Third Coast Percussion,  Spektral Quartet  ... 
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  • 5.
    Dialogue
    Label: Crystal   Catalog: 880 Release Date: 12/21/2015   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Béla Bartók,  Augusta Read Thomas,  Walter Piston,  David Del Tredici
    Performer:  Scott Kluksdahl,  Carol Rodland
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  • 6.
    Full Moon in the City
    Label: Oberlin Music   Catalog: 1505 Release Date: 11/13/2015   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Russell Platt,  Augusta Read Thomas,  Libby Larsen,  Peter Schickele
    Performer:  George Sakakeeny
    Conductor:  Timothy Weiss,  Raphael Jiménez
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Oberlin Contemporary Music Ensemble
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  • 7.
    Music for Saxophone & Cello
    Label: Centaur Records   Catalog: 3413 Release Date: 11/13/2015   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Dorothy Chang,  Jonathan Elliott,  Edison Denisov,  Augusta Read Thomas  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Helton-Thomas Duo
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  • 8.
    Augusta Read Thomas: Astral Canticle
    Label: Nimbus   Catalog: 6306 Release Date: 07/10/2015   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Augusta Read Thomas
    Performer:  Jonathan Keeble,  J. David Harris,  Julie Gunn,  Yvonne [Soprano Vocal] Redman  ... 
    Conductor:  Donald Schleicher,  Andrea Solya
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  • 9.
    Augusta Read Thomas: Music for Strings
    Label: Nimbus   Catalog: 6263 Release Date: 07/10/2015   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Augusta Read Thomas
    Performer:  Stefan Hersh,  Scott Kluksdahl,  Marc Rovetti,  Julian Hersh  ... 
    Conductor:  Jan Krzywicki,  Laura Jackson,  Xian Zhang,  Jack Delaney
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Network for New Music,  Southern Methodist University Wind Ensemble
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  • 10.
    A Portrait of Augusta Read Thomas: Hemke Concerto
    Label: Nimbus   Catalog: 6262 Release Date: 10/14/2014   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Augusta Read Thomas
    Performer:  Frederick Hemke,  Katie Hyun,  Mihai Marica,  Tony Arnold  ... 
    Conductor:  William Boughton
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  New Haven Symphony Orchestra,  New York Virtuoso Singers,  Elm City Girls Choir
    CD: $18.99
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  • 11.
    Augusta Read Thomas: Chamber & Piano Works
    Label: Nimbus   Catalog: 6261 Release Date: 07/08/2014   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Augusta Read Thomas
    Performer:  Amy Briggs,  Yuan-qing Yu,  Janet Sung,  Robert Walters  ... 
    Conductor:  Jack Delaney
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Walden Chamber Players,  Southern Methodist University Wind Ensemble
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  • 12.
    Augusta Read Thomas: Aureole; Carillon Sky; Words Of The Sea; Terpsichore's Dream; In My Sky At Twilight
    Label: Nimbus   Catalog: 6258 Release Date: 04/08/2014   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Augusta Read Thomas
    Performer:  Christine Brandes,  Baird Dodge,  Greg Heustis
    Conductor:  Cliff Colnot,  Pierre Boulez,  Oliver Knussen,  Jack Delaney
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Music Now Ensemble,  Meadows Wind Ensemble
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  • 13.
    Differential Moods / Jeffrey Loeffert
    Label: Blue Griffin   Catalog: 303 Release Date: 04/08/2014   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Marc Mellits,  Christian Lauba,  Elliott Carter,  Benjamin Fuhrman  ... 
    Performer:  Jeffrey Loeffert,  David Dees,  Kimberly Goddard Loeffert,  Johnny [Sax Soprano] Salinas  ... 
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  • 14.
    Chanticleer - How Sweet the Sound
    Label: Teldec   Catalog: 641038 Release Date: 01/28/2014   Number of Discs: 14
    Composer:  Giovanni Palestrina,  Ignacio Jerusalem,  Manuel de Zumaya,  Anonymous  ... 
    Performer:  Kevin Baum,  Frank Albinder,  Douglas [Tenor Vocals] Wright,  Christopher Fritzsche  ... 
    Conductor:  Joseph Jennings,  Ettore Stratta,  Frank Albinder,  Skip Sempé
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Chanticleer,  Chanticleer Sinfonia,  Don Haas Trio  ... 
    CD: $68.99
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  • 15.
    All Star Orchestra: Programs 7 & 8 - Tchaikovsky, Mahler / Gerard Schwarz
    Label: Naxos   Catalog: 2110351 Release Date: 11/19/2013   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky,  David Stock,  Gustav Mahler,  Augusta Read Thomas  ... 
    Conductor:  Gerard Schwarz
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  All Star Orchestra
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  • 16.
    Resounding Earth / Third Coast Percussion [includes Dvd]
    Label: New Focus   Catalog: 137 Release Date: 10/29/2013   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Augusta Read Thomas
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Third Coast Percussion
    CD: $17.99
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  • 17.
    Label: Sterling   Catalog: 1676 Release Date: 04/24/2012   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Erland von Koch,  Augusta Read Thomas,  Claude Debussy,  Lowell Liebermann  ... 
    Performer:  Elivi Varga,  Olle Langstrom
    CD: $18.99
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  • 18.
    Notable Women / Lincoln Trio
    Label: Cedille Records   Catalog: 126 Release Date: 08/30/2011   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Lera Auerbach,  Stacy Garrop,  Jennifer Higdon,  Laura Elise Schwendinger  ... 
    Performer:  Desiree Ruhstrat,  David Cunliffe,  Marta Aznavoorian
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Lincoln Trio
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  • 19.
    Going Solo / Stephanie Sant'Ambrogio
    Label: Msr   Catalog: 1397 Release Date: 06/14/2011   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Henri Vieuxtemps,  Fritz Kreisler,  Augusta Read Thomas,  James Winn  ... 
    Performer:  Stephanie Sant'Ambrogio
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  • 20.
    American Weavings
    Label: Crystal   Catalog: 839 Release Date: 03/08/2011   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  John Weaver,  Christopher Gable,  Augusta Read Thomas,  Craig Phillips  ... 
    Performer:  Catherine Rodland,  Carol Rodland
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  • 21.
    Rhapsodic Musings - Carter, Salonen, Zorn, Et Al / Jennifer Koh
    Label: Cedille Records   Catalog: 113 Release Date: 09/29/2009   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Esa-Pekka Salonen,  Elliott Carter,  Augusta Read Thomas,  John Zorn
    Performer:  Jennifer Koh
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  • 22.
    Music From Raritan River - Bogdanovic, Liebermann, Sierra, Etc / Daedalus String Quartet, Et Al
    Label: Msr   Catalog: 1298 Release Date: 12/09/2008   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Dusan Bogdanovic,  Lowell Liebermann,  Roberto Sierra,  Augusta Read Thomas  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Newman and Oltman Guitar Duo,  Daedalus String Quartet
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  • 23.
    Melville's Dozen / Nicola Melville
    Label: Innova   Catalog: 691 Release Date: 09/23/2008   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Carter Pann,  Stacy Garrop,  Mark Olivieri,  Phillip Rhodes  ... 
    Performer:  Nicola Melville
    CD: $14.99
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  • 24.
    Odd Couple / Matt Haimovitz, Geoffrey Burleson
    Label: Oxingale Records   Catalog: 2015 Release Date: 09/16/2008   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Augusta Read Thomas,  Elliott Carter,  Samuel Barber,  David Sanford
    Performer:  Matt Haimovitz,  Geoffrey Burleson
    CD: $15.99
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  • 25.
    United States: Life Music 2 - Rorem, Higdon, Et Al
    Label: Quartz Records   Catalog: 2055 Release Date: 11/13/2007   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  William Bolcom,  Jennifer Higdon,  Chen Yi,  Augusta Read Thomas  ... 
    Performer:  Janet Ying,  Phillip Ying,  David Ying,  Timothy Ying
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Ying String Quartet
    CD: $15.99
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