First performance 6 August 2022 by cellist Norman Fischer and pianist Bethany Pietroniroat the Tanglewood Music Center’s Festival of Contemporary Music in Seiji Ozawa Hall. Commissioned by Tanglewood Music Center and the Boston Symphony Orchestra.
First performance of the marimba version 16 October 2022, presented by Collage New Music, Frank Epstein, Founder and David Hoose, Music Director, on the occasion of their 50th anniversary season, was given by marimba player Robert Schulz and pianist Christopher Oldfather in Killian Hall at Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, MA.
Duration: 7 minutes
Informal reference recording
When playing and hearing BEBOP RIDDLE II the virtuosity, flexibility, and energy of superstar jazz upright-bass players Charles Mingus, Ron Carter, and Ray Brown leap to ear and mind. This force, intersected with other specific musical perfumes formulate a unique sonic palette. Thomas said, “I love how music talks with music.” Imagine the pointillistic intricacy and contrapuntal, conversational, interlocking-lines of J.S. Bach’s keyboard music crisscrossed with Bill-Evans-and-Thelonious-Monk-like harmonies, then further overlapped with the energy of bebop’s fast tempo, rapid chord changes, mood shifts, and instrumental flair. Thomas braids these auras (there are no musical quotes in the composition) into a personal, nuanced amalgam that captures the spirit of improvisation, at turns whimsical, soulful, vivacious, reflective, and animated. Thomas said, “There is a lifeforce when one musician speaks in music with another. Even if from time to time one musician is silent, there is still an animated spirit and energy.” She writes on her score, “Full of spirit; Enthusiastic inner-life for each note, line, and hocket.” This refined composition is a 7-minute conversation between cello and piano as well as a conversation between composer and some of her musical idols. Thomas is composing a series of “Bebop Riddles” all of which are completely independent, unique works. Bebop Riddle I is for solo marimba. Thomas dedicates this work with admiration and gratitude to Ellen Highstein to honor her longstanding leadership of the Tanglewood Music Center. Commissioned by the Tanglewood Music Center and the Boston Symphony Orchestra.
A stylish and spirited pizzicato kaleidoscope, which is energetic, dramatic, clear, clean, vibrant, inventive, dynamic, and optimistic. Diaphanous and, at the same time, vivid, this imaginative all-pizzicato adventure is an excellent, distinctive recital work in which musicians unfurl manifold instrumental colors. Groove twirls, jazzy harmonies are animated with rhythmic vitality, and virtuosic contrapuntal hockets ping-pong between players.
Stephanie Oestreich, The Boston Musical Intelligencier, August 8, 2022
Headline: Lively and Accessible New Music
“…a jazzy conversation…”
Jeremy Eichler, The Boston Globe, October 18, 2022
“A new version of Augusta Read Thomas’s “Bebop Riddle II” opened the program. This is a compact, sprightly, jazz-inspired work, here scored as a duo for piano and marimba. It’s a very strong piece, instantly engaging the ear with its taut instrumental dialogue, syncopated rhythms, and the joyful forward-sweeping motion of an Art Tatum rag."
"It would have been interesting to hear it performed back-to-back with the original version, scored for piano and pizzicato cello, which premiered at Tanglewood this past summer. An informal reference recordingof that original version speaks with a particular dynamism in part because the pointed pizzicato and the sharp-edged piano attacks are much closer to each other in timbre than the piano and the marimba. The intimacy brings a different kind of intensity — like a conversation within a family versus one with a neighbor across the fence.”
Jonathan Blumhofer, The Boston Classical, October 17, 2022
“By turns an homage to J. S. Bach, Thelonious Monk, Bill Evans, Charlie Mingus, and others, it is music of impishness and style.”
“As played on Sunday by marimbaist Robert Schulz and pianist Christopher Oldfather, Bebop’s abstracted, conversational elements emerged strongly. But it was the players’ elucidation of the score’s rich play of colors (often, the marimba sounded like a radiant extension of the keyboard) that ensured the piece didn’t devolve into a merely brilliant, mechanical exercise.”
David Patterson, The Boston Music Intelligencer, October 18, 2022 “Several unison riffs between marimba and piano with an overall emphasis on linear instances put Bebop Riddle II in motion in the debut of this CNM-commissioned transcription. Thomas (b. 1964) also went up tempo in spurts akin to that start-stop, soft-loud equilibrium evolving out of the ’50s-’60s avant-garde. Marimbaist Robert Schulz and pianist Christopher Oldfather energetically exchanged bursts, synced unisons, and playfully birthed…this first performance.”
To obtain examination or performance material for this
Augusta Read Thomas work, please contact Nimbus Music Publishing.