Read Thomas's Ritual Incantations and other works, conducted by Daniel Stowe

Album title:
Read Thomas
Read Thomas
Ritual Incantations; Chi; Qi; Angel Tears; Earth Prayers; Klee Musings; Rhea Enchanted; Venus Enchanted; Dappled Things; Eurythmy Etudes
Allen Harrington (saxophone), David Finckel, Scott Kluksdahl (cello), Lynn Raley (piano), Lottie Enns-Braun (organ); Spektral Quartet; Third Coast Percussion; Civitas Ensemble; Taipei Symphony Orchestra/Felix Chiu-Sen Chen; University of Notre Dame Glee Club/Daniel Stowe
Catalogue Number:
NI 6355
BBC Music Magazine
Read Thomas's Ritual Incantations and other works, conducted by Daniel Stowe

As this latest Nimbus anthology of her recent output confirms, the American composer Augusta Read Thomas (b1964) has a gift for immediate communication, enhanced by a flair for titles and background programmes that provide the listener with useful ways into the music. The oldest piece here is Ritual Incantations of 1999, a sequence of three declamatory monologues for cello supported by vivid orchestral writing: David Finckel is the compelling orator at the heart of events. 

Chi is a string quartet inspired by the Chinese idea of the life force, in four movements alternating between restless energy and meditative stillness; the Spektral Quartet projects both moods with confidence. Klee Musings is a piano trio suggested by paintings of Paul Klee, in which two fragmented, jazzy scherzos enclose a slow movement of calm bell sounds. The Civitas Ensemble performs this with precision and finesse. 

Among the smaller pieces on the disc, the ear is caught by Qi, a precision-engineered relay race for four percussionists (Third Coast Percussion) playing two marimbas. There are also a pair of spare-textured meditations for saxophone and organ, two cello monologues inspired by classical goddesses, a provokingly broken-up setting for male voices of Gerard Manley Hopkins’s poem Dappled Things, and a pair of piano Etudes in Thomas’s by now familiar modes of jumpy scherzoand punctuated stillness. 

The standard of performances is high. The recordings are a mixed bag, some with uncomfortably up-close microphone placings, but always acceptable. There are helpful notes by the composer Paul Pellay. 

Anthony Burton

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