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2009 Tanglewood Festival of Contemporary Music Welcome Letter
By Festival Director Augusta Read Thomas

Welcome Friends!

Music's eternal quality is its capacity for change, transformation and renewal. As such, there is an abundance to celebrate this week! No one composer, style, school of thought and practice or historical period can claim a monopoly of music's truths.

We are privileged to be part of one of the world's greatest music festivals, founded by the Boston Symphony Orchestra under Serge Koussevitzky more than seventy years ago. Forty-five years ago the Festival of Contemporary Music, the "festival within a festival," was begun by Erich Leinsdorf. Thus it is incumbent upon our generation to maintain that enthusiasm for discovery shared by Koussevitzky and his successors, who believe that the music of our time must be nurtured. Bravo to Tanglewood for this longstanding and steadfast commitment. It has been an honor for me to serve as FCM Director.

With that spirit, I set out to design programs that cover the wide variety of styles and musical passions abundant in today's musical thinking and practice. This is not a festival with a house style! Each single work is its own totally special and distinctive galaxy. Music is multifaceted and nuanced in infinite measure. So let's celebrate the specificity of each composition, with its exclusive shadings and gradations with real listening that is varied stylistically, close, granular, and refined. Many of the distinctions among musical styles are progressively blurred over time and in different contexts, as we will hear this week. The excellent composers of FCM 09 seek something genuinely individual — a moment of exquisite humanity and raw soul — giving us music that is alive, that jumps off the page and out of the instruments and voices as if something big is at stake.

There are a great number of consummate composers working today who keep our noble tradition healthy. The amount of new music being composed each day goes beyond what can be distributed and absorbed by the financial support mechanisms and the market at large. I researched and listened to a vast amount of music, eventually ending up with a selection of eighty pieces. (As you would expect, Nicolas Hodges programmed all the music on his own wonderful piano recital.) My eighty choices impressed me by confidently asserting their own musical premises and carrying them out brilliantly. I sought to program compositions that are works of art on their own terms, works of tour-de-force strength by living composers. Some names will be familiar, others not. Some composers and compositions that I love are left out (but not forgotten) due to limited space. Other composers were omitted because they recently had large works performed on FCM; other works precluded for purely logistical reasons. In the end, I had thirty-one pieces by thirty-one composers, representing thirteen countries of origin.

Two subtitles for FCM 09 are: A Singing Summer and The Contemporary Piano. A notable eleven works feature voice (and beautiful poetry), and there are many significant solo piano works in addition to Nic Hodges' recital. I also chose to spotlight youth: seven of our composers are near or under thirty. We have four world-premieres from composers ranging in age from twenty-six to 100.

The concert ordering and the placement of works across the five programs constantly engaged my attention. My hope was to make concert menus in which one piece was selected specifically to follow another, allowing their similarities and differences in some fashion to "talk to one another across the concert" — and indeed across the Festival.

Sincere thanks, for their "spectacular-ness," to each of the virtuosic young TMC musicians, Boston Symphony musicians, James Levine, Tony Fogg, the TMC faculty and staff, and the composers. Thanks to the many publishing houses that were immensely helpful. I am indebted to all my faculty colleagues, vocal and instrumental, who gave expert coaching to the musicians. A special thanks to Ellen Highstein for her support and her exceptionally positive approach to all aspects of collaborating, and to scheduler Gary Wallen, who is a treasure. and to Robert Kirzinger whose program book is magnificent.

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 — in this case: YOU! 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. So we thank YOU as you are an important part of FCM.


Augusta Read Thomas"

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