Four major world premiers for composer Augusta Read Thomas in 2012-2013

Contact: Paula Mlyn
A440 Arts Group


June 1, 2012


Resounding Earth on September 30, 2012, featuring Third Coast Percussion at the DeBartolo Performing Arts Center, University of Notre Dame

Earth Echoes on October 11, 2012, at Carnegie Hall featuring the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, mezzo-soprano Sasha Cooke, and baritone Nathan Gunn

Harvest Drum on December 20, 2012, featuring the National Centre for the Performing Arts Symphony Orchestra, Beijing, China

Cello Concerto No. 3, on March 14-16, 2013, featuring the Boston Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Christoph Eschenbach, featuring cellist Lynn Harrell

NEW YORK, NY–A440 Arts Group announces four major world premieres by American composer Augusta Read Thomas taking place in the upcoming 2012-2013 season, including commissions from the University of Notre Dame, the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, the National Centre for the Performing Arts in Beijing, China, and the Boston Symphony Orchestra. Praised for her extraordinary compositional versatility, Augusta Read Thomas has been praised as “a prodigious talent” (Russell Platt, The New Yorker) whose music “fairly explodes with an extroverted boldness of utterance audiences and musicians alike find challenging yet immediate.  It’s music that doesn’t sound like anybody else’s—music that insists you pay attention.” (John von Rhein, The Chicago Tribune)

Thomas’ catalogue boasts more than 118 scores, commissioned by some of the most recognized performers, ensembles, and conductors in the world.  In addition to the world premieres and other significant performances in 2012-2013, Thomas will continue her commitment to education of rising young composers.  She will lead the Advanced Master Class for composers at the Aspen Music Festival from June 23- July 21, 2012, and serve as Mentor Composer from January 8-11, 2013, at the Minnesota Orchestra Composer Institute.


Resounding Earth (2012) with the Third Coast Percussion Quartet

September 30, 2012, DeBartolo Performing Arts Center, University of Notre Dame, South Bend, IN

Thomas’ first world premiere of the season will be Resounding Earth on September 30, 2012, 2 pm, performed by the Third Coast Percussion Quartet at the DeBartolo Performing Arts Center at the University of Notre Dame, South Bend, Indiana. Commissioned by the DeBartolo Performing Arts Center and the Virginia Commonwealth University School of the Arts, Resounding Earth is a 25-minute work scored for percussion quartet featuring over 125 bells from a wide variety of cultures and historical periods. Thomas and the Third Coast Percussion Quartet will be in residence at the University of Notre Dame for the week prior to the premiere for youth education outreach in local schools.

Conceived as a statement which celebrates interdependence and commonality across all cultures, Resounding Earth explores the extraordinary beauty and diversity of expression inherent to bells. Bells have served as an important element in much of Thomas’ music for over 25 years.  She says, “Probing into the rich meanings and characteristics of various bells, as carriers of history, ethnicity, and societal and cultural connotations, was a joy and wonder during the creation of this work.”

Earth Echoes (2012) with the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra

October 11, 2012, Carnegie Hall, New York

The Orpheus Chamber Orchestra opens their 2012-2013 season at Carnegie Hall on October 11, 2012, 8 pm, with the world premiere of Earth Echoes by Augusta Read Thomas, featuring renowned soloists Sasha Cooke, mezzo-soprano, and Nathan Gunn, baritone. The work‘s form and instrumentation are an allusion to Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde, and was commissioned by Orpheus in remembrance of the 100th Anniversary of Mahler’s death in 2011. Thomas says, “As this work was commissioned to recognize the death of Mahler rather than his birth, it seemed fitting to choose inspiration from one of Mahler’s final compositions.  Das Lied von der Erde was Mahler’s penultimate work - and notably his last work with texts – featuring several movements and two singers.”

Vocal music represents a large portion of Thomas’ catalogue and has been a profound influence upon her work. She says, “The human voice has always been an inspiration for my entire musical thinking.  It is possibly the most subtle, complex, fragile yet forceful, flexible, seductive, and persuasive carrier of musical ideas and meanings.”

Earth Echoes is a 28-minute symphonic, often operatic song cycle with texts selected from Das Lied von der Erde as well as from several other poets, including Khalil Gibran, Amy Lowell, Li Shang-Yin, Basho, and Li Po.  “The texts for Earth Echoes were chosen as much for their meaning as for their sounds,” Thomas notes. “I wanted to celebrate earth’s continual revitalization and renewal in this piece. It is optimistic and joyful, with a lot of contrast between moods, tempos, and colors. Each movement has its own aura.”

Harvest Drum (2012) with the National Centre for the Performing Arts Symphony Orchestra

December 20, 2012, National Performing Arts Centre, Beijing, China

Thomas’ third world premiere of the season takes place in China on December 20, 2012, at the National Centre for the Performing Arts in Beijing. The National Centre’s Symphony Orchestra will perform Harvest Drum, commissioned by the National Centre as part of its Composing China project.

In the fall of 2011, Thomas was invited by the National Centre for the Performing Arts on an extensive tour of China, intended to inspire a composition reflecting her experiences.  “Drums reflect many of the unique social and historical patterns that evolve throughout a culture,” Thomas says. “The rich array of artistic expressions from the Chinese drum culture, often with several drummers dressed in colorful and ornate clothing, gives expression to the vitality of their nation.  The verve and strength of the Miao people in Southern China inspired Harvest Drum for orchestra.”

The 13-minute score for full orchestra consists of four contrasting movements: Shimmering Sunlight on Harvest, Sowing Rituals, Invocation to Nature Spirits, and Dragon, and includes four Dagu Drums (a large Chinese drum played with two wooden sticks) arranged in a semicircle surrounding the back and sides of the orchestra.

Cello Concerto No. 3 (2013) with the Boston Symphony Orchestra

March 14-16, 2013, Symphony Hall, Boston, MA

On March 14-16 at Symphony Hall, the Boston Symphony Orchestra presents the world premiere of Thomas’ Cello Concerto No. 3, conducted by Christoph Eschenbach, featuring cello soloist Lynn Harrell. A long-time champion of Thomas’ music, Christoph Eschenbach has led several premieres of her works, including Trainwork, Chanting to Paradise, Helios Choros III, which Thomas dedicated to the conductor, and the US premiere of Violin Concerto #3. This concerto was commissioned by the Boston Symphony Orchestra with generous support from Bill and Solange Brown.

Thomas describes the five-part concerto as “One generous, long-reaching arch, the energy flow of which is always given by the soloist, who is at the ‘philosophic center,’ beckoning, caressing, and summoning the music into being.”


Recently elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (previously elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 2009), Augusta Read Thomas’ music is majestic, elegant, lyrical, and it has been called “boldly considered music that celebrates the sound of instruments and reaffirms the vitality of orchestral music” by The Philadelphia Inquirer.

Born in 1964, Ms. Thomas was the Mead Composer-in-Residence with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra from 1997 through 2006, a residency that culminated in the premiere of Astral Canticle – one of two finalists for the 2007 Pulitzer Prize in Music. During her residency with the CSO under the direction of Daniel Barenboim, Thomas not only premiered nine commissioned works, but also co-founded (with Cliff Colnot) and curated the MusicNOW series. In addition to Barenboim, Thomas’ music has been championed by other leading conductors including Pierre Boulez, Esa-Pekka Salonen, Oliver Knussen, Seiji Ozawa, Mstislav Rostrapovich, Leonard Slatkin, David Robertson and Christoph Eschenbach.

Thomas’ music has been commissioned by leading ensembles and organizations around the world including: Chanticleer; Berlin Philharmonic, NDR (German Radio) Orchestra; The Cleveland Orchestra; Chicago Symphony Orchestra; Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra; La Jolla Chamber Music Society; National Symphony Orchestra; Radio France; BBC PROMS, and the BBC Orchestra; Dallas Symphony Orchestra; London Symphony Orchestra; Boston Symphony Orchestra; Orchestre de Paris; Utah Symphony Orchestra; the Los Angeles Philharmonic; the New York Philharmonic, Seattle Symphony, and the ASCAP Foundation.

Ms. Thomas studied composition with Oliver Knussen at Tanglewood, Jacob Druckman at Yale University, with Alan Stout and Bill Karlins at Northwestern University, and at the Royal Academy of Music in London. She was a Junior Fellow in the Society of Fellows at Harvard University and a Bunting Fellow at Radcliffe College – which is now, The Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University.

Committed to educating future generations of composers, Thomas is the 16th ever University Professor to be so named, and currently one of five University Professors on the faculty of the University of Chicago. Thomas was an assistant then associate professor of composition at the Eastman School of Music from 1993-2001, and from 2001 until 2006 was the Wyatt Professor of Music (Endowed Chair) at Northwestern University. In the summers, she often teaches at the Tanglewood Music Center. Thomas was the Director of the Festival of Contemporary Music at Tanglewood in 2009. Frequently, Thomas undertakes residencies in colleges, universities, and festivals across the United States and in Europe.

Ms. Thomas’ music is published exclusively by G. Schirmer, Inc.


Violin Concerto No. 3, Juggler in Paradise (2008)

August 8, 2012, 6 pm; Aspen Philharmonic Orchestra, Aspen Music Festival, CO

Jennifer Koh, violin; George Manahan, conductor

Passion Prayers for solo cello and ensemble (1999)

August 24, 2012, 8 pm; Danish Chamber Players

Nystedvej, Denmark

Helios Choros I (2006) – European Premiere

October 28, 2012; Wien Modern Festival, Vienna, Austria

Tonkünstler Orchestra; Brad Lubman, conductor