Augusta Read Thomas: Four Premieres

Augusta Read Thomas: Four Premieres
© Dan Rest
Between December 14 and January 26, the music of Augusta Read Thomas will be heard in four world premiere concerts in Europe and the US. These premieres tell of the overwhelming success she has achieved during her career. Foremost, however, this recognition is a testament to her art and her exquisite, deeply personal compositions.

At the Barbican Centre in London on December 14, Daniel Harding and the London Symphony Orchestra debut Thomas’ second chapter of the Helios Choros triptych. Parts I and III were given premieres in Dallas and Paris, respectively, in 2007. The entire 45-minute orchestral triptych can be played together or separately, or any two can be paired. “It was a challenge,” Thomas explains, “to write pieces that work independently, but actually are part of this much larger creation.” Helios Choros II, Thomas continues, “is bold, punchy, and athletic. At other times it is delicate, sublime, and distant...It’s alive from the inside with lots of character.”

Thomas’ newest work for violin, an instrument for which she has had a deep passion throughout her career, receives its world premiere on January 16. Frank Peter Zimmermann performs Thomas’ Violin Concerto No. 3 with Andrey Boreyko conducting the Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France. Of Zimmermann, Thomas states: "He is a huge inspiration to me. Not only is Frank Peter a world-class soloist, but he is also a lovely human being. To compose my third Violin Concerto for him has been a highlight of my life; the work is dedicated to him with admiration and gratitude."

The Houston Symphony and Hans Graf premiere Thomas’ new double concerto, Absolute Ocean, for harp (Paula Page) and soprano (Twyla Robinson), a setting of poems by E. E. Cummings, on January 22. For Thomas the work was a challenge. During the process she began to envision the two soloists as a kind of helix, “constantly flickering off one another and spiraling around, rather than having one soloist stand there while the other plays a cadenza. It’s a much more colorful and integrated fabric.”

Finally, on January 26, Thomas’ piano solo Traces receives its much anticipated world premiere performance by Amy Briggs, Thomas’ good friend and frequent collaborator. Briggs recorded the work in 2007. In Traces, one hears “perfumes of other idioms,” or traces of other musical traditions: “Like J.S. Bach crossed with Bebop.” For Briggs, these perfumes are not about quoting anything directly, but capturing certain elements like “the frenetic energy that you hear in the recordings of people like Art Tatum.”

Please go to to hear Thomas describe these four premieres and to listen to Amy Briggs in her 2007 premiere recording of Traces.