The Aurora Orchestra perform ‘Of a Being is a Bird’ by Augusta Read Thomas

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COMPOSERS: Augusta Read Thomas
LABELS: Nimbus Records
ALBUM TITLE: Read Thomas
WORKS: Helix Spirals; Selene; Capricious Toccata; Of Being is a Bird; Caprice; Rush; Love Twitters
PERFORMER: Claire Booth (soprano), Nathan Giem, Nathan Cole (violin), Nicola Melville (piano); Third Coast Percussion; Parker Quartet; Spektral Quartet; Aurora Orchestra/Nicholas Collon
CATALOGUE NO: Nimbus Records NI 6323


This enjoyable anthology of recent music by the American composer Augusta Read Thomas comes right up to date with Of Being is a Bird, recorded at its premiere in London last July. It’s a setting for soprano and ensemble of two Emily Dickinson poems about birds: it begins with airy, luminous sonorities, but an instrumental interlude gives it an infusion of energy that lasts to the end. The same sense of purposeful motion runs through the DNA-inspired string quartet Helix Spirals, which progresses gradually from scattered pizzicatos to bowed unanimity, and Selene, for percussion and string quartets, which depicts the moon goddess’s journey across the skies with irresistible forward drive, pausing only for moments of radiant beauty.

Claire Booth and Aurora capture the poetry and liveliness of the Dickinson settings, the Parker Quartet are impressively assured in Helix Spirals, and Third Coast Percussion and the Spektral Quartet interlock with exhilarating precision in Selene. For the rest, Nathan Giem and Nathan Cole share the honours in three volatile solo violin miniatures, and Nicola Melville ends the disc unexpectedly but delightfully with a skittering piano paraphrase of an Irving Berlin song.


Anthony Burton