• 0020/2.1+pictpt.1.0/2perc/hp/str
  • Cello solo with Flute, Oboe, Violin soli
  • 13 min

Programme Note

Composer’s Note:

I: Majestic; driving and persistent; cantabile
II: Mysterious and expansive; longing; yearning
III: Spirited; passionate, bold and lyrical

Music of all kinds constantly amazes, surprises, propels and seduces me into a wonderful and powerful journey. I am happiest when I am listening to music and in the process of composing music. I care deeply that music is not anonymous and generic or easily assimilated and just as easily dismissed. I would say that Ritual Incantations has urgent, seductive, and compelling qualities of sometimes complex, but always logical thought, allied to sensuous and engaging sonic profiles.

Throughout the 14 minutes of this work, the solo cello is featured, at times with impassioned cadenza passages, at times with more reflective materials. In all cases, the cello sings long, generous, and earnest cantabile lines. The soloist (along with its concertino group made up of solo flute, solo oboe and solo violin that are seated at the front of the orchestra) instigates and generates all the musical discourse.

Commissioned by Thomas van Straaten for the Aspen Music Festival and School on the occasion its 50th anniversary, Ritual Incantations was premiered by the Aspen Music Festival Chamber Orchestra, David Finckel cellist with Hugh Wolff conducting: July 16, 1999 The score is dedicated with admiration and gratitude to the Aspen Music Festival.
"My music must be passionate, involving risk and adventure such that any given musical moment may seem surprising when first heard but, a millisecond later, seems inevitable. I think of my music as nuanced lyricism under pressure! That said, my primary artistic concern is to communicate in an honest and passionate voice, being faithful to my deepest inner promptings and creative urges. This way, any willing listener, irrespective of prior musical knowledge, training, or background can engage with my music.

Every listener brings their own unique perspective to the listening process. In Ritual Incantations I offer them aesthetic engagements with the world and with themselves as I, too, undertake a mission of self-discovery. Music of all kinds constantly amazes, surprises, propels, and seduces me into wonderful and powerful journeys. I care deeply that music is not anonymous and generic — easily assimilated and just as easily dismissed and forgotten. Ritual Incantations has passionate, urgent, seductive, and compelling qualities of often complex (but always logical) thought allied to sensuous sonic profiles.
"My favorite moment in any piece of music is that of maximum risk and striving. Whether the venture is tiny or large, loud or soft, fragile or strong, passionate, erratic, or eccentric — the moment of exquisite humanity and raw soul! All art that I cherish has elements of order, mystery, love, recklessness, and desperation. For me, music must be alive and jump off the page and out of the instrument as if something big is at stake.

This artistic credo leads me to examine small musical objects (a chord, a motive, a rhythm, a color) and explore them from many perspectives. These different perspectives reveal new musical potentials thus developing the musical discourse. In this manner, and in Ritual Incantations in particular, the music takes on an organic, circular, self-referential character which, at the same time, has a forward progression.

—Augusta Read Thomas