Thomas Prairie Sketches CD artwork

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Augusta Read Thomas' site

Augusta Read Thomas
Prairie Sketches

Callisto Ensemble
Cliff Colnot, conductor
Tony Arnold, soprano
Amy Dissanayake, piano

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“Amy Briggs Dissanayake offers elegant, precisely shaded accounts of Ms. Thomas's attractive Piano Etudes, presented in three contrasting, interrelated pairs.” — Steve Smith, The New York Times

"…if the classical music world had an equivalent of the Oscars, Augusta Read Thomas might get the award for Most Prolific Contemporary Composer. Much of the composer's zest for putting together new sounds that reflect her rapturous delight in music comes through in her latest work for chamber ensemble, Prairie Sketches I: Diamonds on Orchid Velvet, which had its premiere by the Callisto Ensemble. When writing for voice and instruments, Thomas is particularly drawn to texts that resonate with spiritual wonderment and suggest intriguing possibilities of color and texture. Thomas's setting, like the poem, mirrors the shifting light over a windswept Kansas prairie from dawn to dusk to late evening. Winds, strings and harp build rich, resonant chords in the opening stanzas, bathed by the brilliance of the solo soprano lines. A mystical choral refrain, ‘My Soul, breathe deep,’ amplifies the image of tall green grasses reaching ‘to embrace silken sunlight.’ When the poetic imagery grows denser, so does the solo soprano part. Indeed, the vocal lines take on a bounding, filigreed energy that propels them high above a luminous field of instrumental activity punctuated by the bright metallic clangor of crotales and temple bells representing twinkling stars." — John von Rhein, Chicago Tribune

"Like all of Thomas' compositions, Prairie Sketches explodes with color. Few composers have as keen an ear for the expressive possibilities in a cello's deep, dark rumble, a clarinet's smoky velvet or the clarion authority of a single, plucked harp string... In Thomas' music, poet Zimmerman's vast Kansas prairie was a joyful place of endless possibility." — Wynne Delacoma, Chicago Sun-Times