Orpheus Chamber Orchestra presents the world premiere of Earth Echoes by Augusta Read Thomas



September 15, 2012


NEW YORK, NY–On October 11, 2012, the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra opens their 2012-2013, 40th Anniversary season at Carnegie Hall with the world premiere of Earth Echoes by Augusta Read Thomas, featuring renowned soloists Nathan Gunn, baritone and Sasha Cooke, mezzo-soprano. Additional performances will take place on October 10, 8 pm, at Williams Center for the Arts at Lafayette College, Easton, PA; and on October 12, 7:30 pm, at University of Connecticut’s Jorgensen Center for the Performing Arts in Storr, CT. For ticket information, please visit the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra website.

The form and instrumentation of Earth Echoes 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.”

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.”

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.”

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 Rostropovich, 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.

Nathan Gunn is regarded as one of the most exciting and in-demand baritones of the day. He has sung leading lyric baritone roles in many of the most renowned opera houses of the world including the Metropolitan Opera, San Francisco Opera, Lyric Opera of Chicago, Covent Garden, Paris Opera, Theatre an der Wien, and Bayerische Staatsoper. A supporter of new works, he created the roles of Clyde Griffiths in Tobias Picker’s An American Tragedy, Father Delura in Love and Other Demons, Alec Harvey in Andre Previn’s Brief Encounter, and Paul in Daron Hagen’s Amelia. Also a distinguished concert performer, Mr. Gunn has appeared regularly with the New York Philharmonic, Boston Symphony Orchestra, Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Cleveland Orchestra and the London Symphony Orchestra. He has also presented recitals in New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Philadelphia, London, and Brussels

Mr. Gunn has recently ventured outside the standard opera repertoire with appearances in performances of Camelot with the New York Philharmonic (broadcast live on PBS’s Great Performances) and Showboat at Carnegie Hall and the Lyric Opera of Chicago. He also appeared in the New York Philharmonic’s 80th birthday gala celebration for Stephen Sondheim and appeared with the orchestra in an evening of Broadway classics with Kelli O’Hara. Other engagements have included appearances with Mandy Patinkin in Rochester and at the Ravinia Festival, a series of cabaret shows at the famed Café Carlyle in New York City and at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts in Orange County, special guest artist in the Mormon Tabernacle Choir’s annual Christmas with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra at Temple Square, and a performance of Sting and Trudie Styler’s work, Twin Spirits in the Allen Room at Jazz at Lincoln Center

Mr. Gunn’s recording of Billy Budd with Daniel Harding and the London Symphony Orchestra (Virgin Classics), won the 2010 Grammy Award. Other recordings include his solo album, Just Before Sunrise (Sony/BMG Masterworks), Rogers & Hammerstein’s Allegro (Sony Masterworks Broadway), Il Barbiere di Siviglia (SONY Classics), and his debut album, American Anthem (EMI).

This season, Mr. Gunn returns to the Metropolitan Opera for Le Comte d’Ory, the Dallas Opera for The Aspern Papers, and the San Francisco Opera for the world premiere of Mark Adamo’s The Gospel of Mary Magdalene. He also appears in recital in Carnegie Hall’s Zankel Hall, Boston’s Jordan Hall, and in Edmond, Chicago, Berkeley, Terra Haute, and Notre Dame.

Mr. Gunn was the recipient of the first annual Beverly Sills Artist Award, and was awarded the Pittsburgh Opera Renaissance Award. He is an alumnus of the Metropolitan Opera Lindemann Young Artists Program and was the winner of the 1994 Metropolitan Opera National Council Competition. He was recently named Director of the American Repertoire Council at the Opera Company of Philadelphia and is a professor of voice at the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana where he is an alumnus.

Radiant American mezzo-soprano Sasha Cooke caused a sensation as Kitty Oppenheimer in the Metropolitan Opera premiere of John Adams’s "Doctor Atomic," the DVD release of which won the 2012 Grammy Award® for Best Opera Recording. She was praised in The New Yorker for her “fresh, vital portrayal, bringing a luminous tone, a generously supported musical line, a keen sense of verbal nuance, and a flair for seduction.”During the summer of 2012, Sasha Cooke opened the Hollywood Bowl’s summer season in Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony with Leonard Slatkin and the Los Angeles Philharmonic, and also appeared at Music@Menlo and the RoundTop Festival. She appeared in the closing concerts of the Aspen Music Festival and the Mostly Mozart Festival, with Robert Spano in Mahler’s Eighth Symphony and with Louis Langrée in Beethoven’s Mass in C, respectively. The new season marks her San Francisco Opera debut as the title role in the world premiere of Mark Adamo’s The Gospel of Mary Magdalene, as well as her role debuts as Magnolia in Francesca Zambello’s production of "Show Boat" at Houston Grand Opera and as Sonja in Dominick Argento’s "The Aspern Papers" at Dallas Opera. She returns to the San Francisco Symphony in Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis under the baton of Michael Tilson Thomas, gives the world premiere of Augusta Read Thomas’s Earth Echoes with the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra at Carnegie Hall, appears with the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center both in New York and in Mecklenberg, Germany, and sings Mahler’s Third Symphony with the Orchestre de Lyon. She also sings Bernstein’s “Jeremiah” Symphony with Leonard Slatkin and the Detroit Symphony, and "Alexander Nevsky" with Pinchas Steinberg and the Cleveland Orchestra. She returns to the New York Festival of Song for a program exploring the lives of women, joins the Miró Quartet for music of Respighi and Schubert with Friends of Chamber Music Denver, and sings "Das Lied von der Erde" with the Columbus Symphony. Ms. Cooke won the 2007 Young Concert Artists International Competition and subsequently appeared in recital at Carnegie’s Weill and Zankel halls, Alice Tully Hall, and the Mondavi Center, among others, often alongside her husband, baritone Kelly Markgraf. She has sung with leading conductors and orchestras including Bernard Haitink and the Chicago Symphony, Manfred Honeck and the Pittsburgh Symphony, Jaap van Zweden and the Dallas Symphony, and Edo de Waart with both the Milwaukee Symphony and the Hong Kong Philharmonic. A former member of the Metropolitan Opera’s Lindemann Young Artist Development Program, her Met performances in "Doctor Atomic" and "Hänsel und Gretel" were also broadcast live in high definition to cinemas around the world. Awards and honors include First Place and the American Prize in the José Iturbi International Music Competition, Top Prize in the Gerda Lissner Competition, and the Kennedy Center’s Marian Anderson Award. Ms. Cooke is a graduate of Rice University and the Juilliard School.

The 2012-2013 season marks Orpheus Chamber Orchestra's 40th year of making internationally acclaimed music while reinventing the way the world thinks about collaboration, outreach, and democratic leadership. With over 70 albums, including the Grammy® Award-winning Shadow Dances: Stravinsky Miniatures, associations with the leading contemporary soloists, and 35 commissioned works as part of their history, Orpheus continues to grow this season, with innovative projects and new musical adventures around the globe. By performing without a conductor and integrating musicians into virtually every facet of the organization, Orpheus empowers its members and infuses performances with unparalleled energy.

2012-13 will be a season of firsts for Orpheus. The orchestra’s season will feature soloists mezzo soprano Sasha Cooke, baritone Nathan Gunn, violinst Anne Akiko Meyers, Wayne Shorter Quartet, Richard Goode, and composer-in-residence Gabriel Kahane. For their opening concert, Orpheus performs Beethoven’s iconic fifth symphony for the first time and, in December, debuts Barber’s Violin Concerto. Pianist Richard Goode—considered by many an honorary member of Orpheus for having played dozens of concerts and recorded four unmatched albums over a nearly four-decade period with the orchestra—will play Schumann’s Piano Concerto with Orpheus for the first time in March.

In addition to expanding their traditional repertoire, Orpheus has commissioned a staggering four world premieres this season. The season begins with the world premiere of Augusta Read Thomas' Earth Echoes, a piece commissioned by Orpheus and written to commemorate the death of Gustav Mahler. In November, Orpheus tours Russia, Germany, and Austria with jazz pianist Brad Mehldau premiering a newly commissioned work by Mehldau, Variations for Piano and Orchestra on a Melancholy Theme, which American audiences will hear the following season. The tour with Mehldau also marks the first time Orpheus will visit Russia. Further highlighting the orchestra’s commitment to challenging itself by exploring the intersections between genres, Orpheus performs a new work by jazz legend Wayne Shorter. Finally, Orpheus ends its U.S. season with a large-scale new work by Gabriel Kahane, Orpheus' first ever composer-in-residence, based on the WPA.