In their ongoing project of commissioning American composers, Thierry Fischer and the Utah Symphony will be premiering three works in 2015, one this weekend and two in the new season. The three will also be recorded for future release.

Augusta Read Thomas (Photo Credit: Young Lee)

This weekend the Utah Symphony will give the world premiere of Augusta Read Thomas’ EOS: Goddess of the Dawn, the orchestra’s second premiere of a work by the Chicago based composer within eight years. EOS will be on the program Feb. 19 in Ogden and Feb. 20-21 in Salt Lake City. Also on the program is Prokofiev’s Symphony No. 1 (Classical) and Beethoven’s Violin Concerto with soloist Baiba Skride.

EOS shows off the colors and flexibility of the musicians as it paints the sunrise,” Thomas told Reichel Recommends in a phone interview from her home in Chicago. The piece starts out quietly and gradually builds momentum. “It ebbs and flows,” she said and described it as “a 17-minute crescendo.” Like many composers, Thomas loves the imagery surrounding the unfolding day. “It’s poetic. We see it every day in our lives.”

Thomas is one of the most successful and most commissioned American composers. Part of her music’s appeal is the fact that even though her music is very chromatic, it nevertheless sounds tonal. Her scores are very pitch oriented, but having a keen sense of pitch allows Thomas to ascribe to them different characteristics. “I’m very aware of the colors of pitches,” she said. “B has a different color than B flat. I’m aware of these subtle differences.” And she uses this to powerful effect in her music.

Exploring tonal colors is a distinctly French trait (just think of the vibrant hues in Debussy’s music), and Thomas readily acknowledges her indebtedness to French composers of earlier generations. “I love French composers. I love Pierre Boulez.” Thomas has a deep affection for the legendary 89-year-old Boulez and considers him a major influence in her creative life. The two met while Thomas was the composer-in-residence for the Chicago Symphony, an organization with long term close ties to the French composer/conductor. (It was Boulez, incidentally, who nominated Thomas for the Ernst von Siemens Prize, which she won in 2000.)

But despite this French element, Thomas also sees a Germanic influence in her music as well. “I love Bach. He is my favorite composer. I listen to his music every day.” Thomas’ works reflect the conciseness and clarity of Bach’s music. “Everything I want to say I say it, and end.” There is nothing superfluous in her scores; all exhibit a very detail oriented sense of purpose and direction. “My music is highly nuanced. Every note has a dynamic. Everything is articulated.” And Thomas consistently gets high praise from the musicians who play her works. “I have musicians tell me that my music is fun to play, because they know exactly what I want them to do.”

EOS is dedicated to Fischer and the members of the Utah Symphony;  it is also a work in honor of Boulez. Thomas, who will be in town the entire week prior to the premiere, said she is eager to attend rehearsals. She noted that the demands she places on the musicians make it a work “for an A+ orchestra. It’s a piece for a top level orchestra. I am so blessed to work with Mr. Fischer and the Utah Symphony because this is a project that hits me dead center.”

  • What: Baiba Skride, violin, Utah Symphony, Thierry Fischer, conductor
  • Venue: Abravanel Hall
  • Time and Date: 8 p.m. Feb. 20-21
  • Tickets: $18-$69 (prices increase $5 when purchased on day of performance), $10 students
  • Phone: 801-355-2787 or 888-451-2787
  • Web:
  • ALSO: Val A. Browning Center for the Performing Arts, Weber Sate University, Ogden, 7:30 p.m. Feb. 19, $27-$32, 801-399-9214,
  • ALSO: Open Rehearsal, Abravanel Hall, 9:30 a.m. Feb. 18, for more information call 801-533-6683.
  • ALSO: Lecture by Augusta Read Thomas, Dumke Recital Hall, David Gardner Hall, University of Utah, 3 p.m. Feb. 20, free, for more information log on to
  • ALSO: Master Class by Baiba Skride, Utah Opera Production Studios, 336 N. 400 West, 12-2 p.m. Feb. 21, free and open to the public but registration is required, to register log on to
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About Edward Reichel

Edward Reichel, author, writer and composer, has been covering the classical music scene in Utah since 1997. For many years he served as the primary music critic for the Deseret News. He has also written for a number of publications, including Chamber Music Magazine, OPERA Magazine, 15 Bytes, Park City Magazine and Salt Lake Magazine. He holds a Ph.D. in composition from the University of California at Santa Barbara. He can be reached at Reichel Recommends is also on Twitter @ReichelArts.

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