Jubilee… by A. R. Thomas
Jubilee for orchestra was commissioned by the Julliard School, and it was premiered at Alice Tully Hall on April 30, 2010. Xian Zhang conducted the Julliard Undergraduate Orchestra; upon hearing the performance, however, one would really think you were hearing a much more experienced orchestra than one whose average age is likely to be 19 or 20 years old…
Augusta Read Thomas was the subject of another recent Post here. I reviewed her composition, “Aurora”, which she had composed much earlier in 1999. In Jubilee, we have an orchestral work with four quite contrasting movements:
The first movement, Fanfare, is sub-titled Awakening Rituals. And sure enough, the music immediately got my attention: The brass instruments start off, and then the percussion and winds are added. All quite an exciting session… I was reminded of quite different tools used by Haydn in one of his symphonies to make sure the audience did not go to sleep. No sleep with Ms. Thomas’ opening movement. In fact, I learned that the 4 movements of this work could stand independently as individually performed music, rather than being played with the following three.
The second movement is titled, Caprice, Effervescent Arabesques. The Flute starts things off, and there is soon support by percussion instruments. As the title implies, this music is very dance-like, and I saw it as possible music for modern Ballet Theater.
My favorite movement is the 3rd, titled, Reverie, Prayer for a Departed Friend. Here the strings start the music. Yes, this section is darker, more somber, with low winds coming in. This movement is much more melodic, and very unlike the first two. Much Cello, Bass and Winds, and a Mahler-like darkness. Really nice!
The final movement is called Gambol: Whimsical Virtuosic Romp. Again a great change: wonderful rhythms, rich percussive content, rather than the strings we heard earlier.
If you’d like to listen to Ms. Thomas talk about her musical background, click below: