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Spektral Quartet and Third Coast Percussion celebrate the work of Augusta Read Thomas

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The Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s prestigious Mead Composer-in-Residence for the longest term so far (from 1997 to 2006, under both Daniel Barenboim and Pierre Boulez), Augusta Read Thomas has been an indefatigable force in new music in Chicago as a composer, educator, and curator. Since 2010 she’s been a professor of music composition at the University of Chicago, and few living composers have had their work performed as often. Her role behind the scenes was amplified last year when she spearheaded and cocurated the massive Ear Taxi Festival, an unprecedented multiday event that enlisted the participation of just about every extant new-music ensemble and composer that’s ever lived here. And she’s made a habit of collaborating with some of Chicago’s finest groups—this weekend Spektral Quartet and Third Coast Percussion will perform three works she wrote specifically for them. Chi for String Quartet is a brand-new piece commissioned by Spektral and getting its world premiere tonight; nearly as exciting will be a reprise performance bringing together both ensembles: Selene, Moon Chariot Rituals premiered at Ear Taxi, and later turned up on Thomas’s 2016 portrait album Of Being Is a Bird (Nimbus). It’s a gem of jaunty rhythms and terse phrases that rise and fall betweens dark meditation and ambiguous tension. Lush string cadences alternate with spry pizzicato, and cool tuned percussion overlaps with explosive drum patterns. TCP will also perform Resounding Earth, a four-movement work built around the ringing, tinkling, and clanging of bells, with tones both brief and sustained.   v

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