Augusta Read Thomas, Composer

Jubilee (2010)

For orchestra
Commissioned by the Juilliard School with the Trust of Francis Goelet
World premiere by the Juilliard Orchestra, with Xian Zhang conducting, at Alice Tully Hall in New York on April 30, 2010
Duration: 18 minutes

Click to hear an excerpt from this work

Program Note by G. Schirmer, Inc.

The music of Augusta Read Thomas is majestic, it is elegant, it is lyrical, it is "boldly considered music that celebrates the sound of the instruments and reaffirms the vitality of orchestral music." (Philadelphia Inquirer) Her deeply personal music is guided by her particular sense of musical form, rhythm, timbre, and harmony.  But given the striking individuality and voice, her music is affected by history — in Thomas' words, "Old music deserves new music and new music needs old music." For Thomas, this means cherishing her place within the musical tradition and giving credit to those who have forged the musical paths she follows and from which she innovates. "You can hear the perfumes of my metaphorical grandparents," Thomas states, "there is a wonderful tradition that I adore, I understand, and care about, but I also have my two feet facing forward."  Thomas' vision toward the future, her understanding of the present, and her respect for the past is evident in her art, in her teaching, and in her citizenship.

When Director of the Festival of Contemporary Music at Tanglewood last summer, Augusta's welcome-letter started, "Music's eternal quality is its capacity for change, transformation and renewal. No one composer, style, school of thought and practice or historical period can claim a monopoly of music's truths."

Most striking in her music, though, is its exquisite humanity and poetry of the soul. The notion that music takes over where words cease is hardly more true than in Thomas' nuanced and colorful musical voice.

Akin to works such as Images pour orchestre by Claude Debussy, and Notations pour orchestre by Pierre Boulez, Augusta's JUBILEE for orchestra, which lasts 20 minutes, is made of up 4 movements that are, at once, "symphonic in scope" meaning that they have a clear 4-movement, connected, arch-form, and yet each movement can also be played independently of the rest, as short, stand-alone orchestral compositions, and/or in any combination of one, two, three or four movements.

Her poetic titles and subtitles, in effect, suffice as a succinct and lively program note.  They are: fanfare: awaking rituals; caprice: effervescent arabesques; reverie: prayer for a departed friend; and gambol: whimsical virtuosic romp, (Like a bebop jazz big-band meets Varèse)

Augusta said about JUBILEE, "Although this music is highly notated, precise, carefully structured, thoughtfully proportioned, and so forthŠ and although you may have 80 to 90 musicians elegantly working together, from the very specific and nuanced text, I like my music to have the feeling that it is organically being self-propelled - on the spot.  As if we listeners, the audience, are overhearing a CAPTURED IMPROVISATION."

"I like my music to be played so that the "inner-life" of the different rhythmic syntaxes is specific, with characterized phrasing of the many colors, characters, and harmonies, etc.- keeping it ultra alive — such that it always sounds spontaneous."

"For their sublime, precision and technical mastery, I deeply thank these Juilliard musicians who tonight play my notations in this manner."

Recently, Augusta said, "The desire to make music comes from very deep inside and from profound necessity. The urge to make and share music (to communicate, if you will) is vivid, and implied in this passion to express is a recipient of the expression — someone, anyone who is a willing listener.  We composers write music that craves a listener and believe that if one creates music that is honest, personal, and human, and is technically and imaginatively elegant in its articulation, it will find its audience — whoever or wherever they may be."

Tonight it is our turn to be that willing listener thanks to this commission by The Juilliard School with the generous support of the Trust of Francis Goelet.

Jubilee is dedicated with admiration to her dear and very close friend, composer Christopher Rouse, who is a distinguished faculty member at Juilliard.

The orchestra consists of:

1 Piccolo
3 Flute
2 Oboe
1 English Horn in F
3 Clarinet in Bb (3 doubles Bass Clarinet in Bb) (2 doubles Eb Clarinet)
2 Bassoon (2 doubles contra bassoon)
4 Horn in F
4 Trumpet in C (1 and 2 might chose to double piccolo trumpet in Bb)
3 Trombone (3 plays only Bass Trombone) #1 doubles Alto Tbn
1 Tuba
6 Percussion
2 Harps
Piano (lid removed for pizz. inside the piano)
Celesta
Strings (Approximately 16, 14, 12, 10, 8 players)

Jubilee for orchestra received its world premiere performance by the Juilliard Orchestra, Xian Zhang conducting, on April 30, 2010, in Alice Tully Hall, New York.


Selected reviews

Alex Ross, The Rest is Noise blog (music critic for The New Yorker)

"Augusta Read Thomas's recent Jubilee is an electric, joyous piece."

My Classical Notes blog, by Hank Zauderer

"All quite an exciting session... I was reminded of quite different tools used by Haydn in one of his symphonies to make sure the audience did not go to sleep. No sleep with Ms. Thomas' opening movement." Click here to read the rest of this post.

 

To obtain examination or performance material for any of Augusta Read Thomas's works, please contact G. Schirmer Inc..

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