Parker Quartet Performs Helix Spirals On World Premiere Recording Of Augusta Read Thomas' "Of Being Is A Bird"


April 1 Nimbus Records Release is sixth CD in a series presenting the music of the eminent American composer and first featuring the Parker Quartet. 

The Parker Quartet expands their performance relationship with celebrated composer Augusta Read Thomas to recordings with the latest CD of her works this spring.

Commissioned by medical anthropologist and author Jeanne Guillemin "in celebration of the Meselson-Stahl DNA replication discovery, 1958," Helix Spirals is a 23 minute, three movement work (I. Loci: memory palace; II: Interlacing: twists and threads; III: Spirals: life force). It was premiered by the Parker Quartet in April of 2015 at Harvard University, an institution connecting scientist, composer and musicians: Matthew Meselson is Thomas Dudley Cabot Professor of the Natural Sciences, the Parker Quartet are Blodgett Artists-in-Residence, and Ms. Thomas served as Junior Fellow in the Society of Fellows at Harvard University from 1991-1994.

"The Parker Quartet gave a committed, detailed, and virtuosic reading...Helix Spirals combines explosive energy, technical virtuosity, and vivid colors and textures with an intellectual rigor of conception that lends it formal continuity and cohesion. This exciting work deserves a place in the repertoire." 

- Matthew Heck, The Boston Musical Intelligencer

"Working with a composer, the source of the music, is one of the most enlightening ways to explore a new work," stated the Parker Quartet. "As performers, it is incredibly special to be part of a composition, from inception, through drafts, discussion, and revisions, to the premiere and beyond. We also feel fortunate to have developed new and wonderful friendships through this project. Gusty's dynamic personality and approach to music is absolutely infectious, and it was an honor to do such work in celebration of Matthew Meselson and Jeanne Guillemin."

Of the work, Ms. Thomas wrote in her program notes (note extract): "Jeanne Guillemin and I spoke at length about the project and we agreed from the start that music is music and science is science. ... If, though, one moves into the realm of metaphor, great synergies exist between science and music; and it was in this realm that Jeanne and I started our collaboration - celebrating that music can be an abstract and intellectual expression of nature. The four string parts are equally and evenly virtuosic.  There are many solo moments for each member of the quartet allowing the musicians' individual skill, elegance and radiance to shine. The three movements encompass a vast array of contrasting colors, motives, textures, rhythmic syntaxes, harmonies and counterpoints, such that each movement contributes to a larger, 24-minute gestalt. Deeply honored to have been asked to compose Helix Spirals, I spent eight months working on the music, which is dedicated with admiration to Matthew Meselson, Franklin Stahl, Jeanne Guillemin, and the Parker Quartet."

Also on the CD are works performed by other artists: Selene (Moon Chariot Rituals) octet for percussion quartet and string quartet (2014), Third Coast Percussion and Spektral Quartet; Capricious Toccata for solo violin (2015), Nathan Giem, violin; Of Being Is A Bird (Emily Dickinson Settings) for solo soprano & ensemble (2015), Claire Booth, soprano, the Aurora Orchestra, Nicholas Collon, conducting; Caprice for solo violin (2005) and Rush for solo violin (2004), Nathan Cole, violin, and Love Twitters Irving Berlin's "they say it is wonderful" arrangement made by Augusta Read Thomas (2006), Nicola Melville, piano.