Release Date: July 19, 2004
Label: ARTCD 19952002
The new CD of works by Augusta Read Thomas, "...Words of the Sea...," is available from the Chicago Symphony Orchestra store and Amazon.com. Conducted by Pierre Boulez and featuring the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, "...Words of the Sea..." contains the seventeen minute title work, which was premiered by the CSO in December 1, 1996, and In My Sky at Twilight," a 19-minute work featuring soprano Christine Brandes and premiered in December 2002 by the CSO's MusicNOW Ensemble. In June 2006, Augusta Read Thomas re-released this CD, adding to it Carillon Sky for solo violin and 14 players, with Oliver Knussen conducting, Baird Dodge as violin soloist, and the CSO's MusicNOW Ensemble.
Of "In My Sky at Twilight," The New Yorker's Russell Platt said "Thomas, a prodigious talent, is the most accessible ambassador of the new modernism, and the piece, a fierce and jagged take on the love poetry of Sappho, Neruda, and Flaubert, among others, shines with passion and color." And Joshua Rosenblum said in an Opera News review, "Is it worth going online and paying eleven bucks to hear nineteen minutes of music for voice and chamber orchestra by Augusta Read Thomas? Definitely."
Words of the Sea and In My Sky at Twilight are two of Thomas's seven orchestral compositions for the CSO, and part of an impressive list of works for the world's premier orchestras that includes Ceremonial for Daniel Barenboim and the CSO, and Aurora for Daniel Barenboim and the Berlin Philharmonic.
The four-movement Words of the Sea, was inspired by the Wallace Stevens 1934 poem "The Idea of Order at Key West," which contrasts the artless, natural power of a raging ocean with the notion of a voice in song. Each movement bears a subtitle taken from the poem: I. ...words of the sea...; II. ...the ever-hooded, tragic-gestured sea...; III. ...beyond the genius of the sea...; IV. ...mountainous atmospheres of sky and sea... (homage to Debussy). Seth Brodsky says in the liner notes, "As much as anything, the 17 loaded minutes of Words of the Sea constitute a wildly active barometer which, in Thomas's characteristically euphoric mode, records the rare climate of Stevens's poem." Words of the Sea, commissioned by the Ernst and Young Emerging Composers Fund of the CSO, was the beginning of an eight-year working relationship between Thomas and Pierre Boulez.
Donald Rosenberg of the Cleveland Plain Dealer said, "Words of the Sea [is] a vibrant series of aquatic images that had no difficulty standing alongside favorite pieces by Barber and Prokofiev. Words of the Sea is a healthy example of a work from a composer who is smitten with the chameleonlike qualities of the orchestra and knows how to exploit its myriad facets." And John von Rhein of the Chicago Tribune said, "Thomas' music, particularly her orchestral 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."