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Composer Augusta Read Thomas is working right now on pieces commissioned by the London Symphony Orchestra, Boston Symphony Orchestra and BBC Proms - lofty company for any musician. Just coming off a nine-year stint as Chicago Symphony Orchestra's composer-in-residence, she's one of the world's busiest living composers.
Still, Thomas made time to create a work for the Utah Symphony Chamber Orchestra and didn't charge a commission for doing it. Thomas gives three reasons for giving the Utah Symphony the world premiere of "Terpsichore's Dream."
First, she loved making the piece - figuring out the harmonies and rhythms, sorting out the form. "It's like building a cathedral or something," she said. "It's interesting to me."
The musicians of the Utah Symphony gave Thomas another reason to create the work she describes as "a delight-of-dancing dream." "I know they are fantastic, so that inspired me - that I was writing for really good players."
Good friends gave Thomas her third reason to get behind the Utah Symphony's New Music @ The Rose series, which seeks to introduce music of recent decades in an intimate setting.
The conductor for Thursday's concert at the Rose Wagner Center is Cliff Colnot, director of the Chicago Symphony's acclaimed MusicNOW series. Colnot was suggested for the Music @ The Rose series by Utah Symphony music librarian Clovis Lark, who worked with him, and with Thomas, while a music librarian for Indiana University's School of Music. The three musicians know each other well, and share an intense interest in new music.
"Clovis Lark and Cliff Colnot are two of the people involved, and they wanted to do a new 'Gusty' [Thomas' nickname] piece," Thomas said. "I kind of did it for them, because they are my buddies."
Thomas named her piece after Terpsichore, the Greek muse of dance, because it gives listeners "a sense of a dance or ballet - full of motion, but with a sense of fantasy and a deep level of imagination," she said.
Colnot attributes Thomas' success as a composer to her "incredible imagination and wonderful ear for color." As a passionate proponent of new art music, he has a ready explanation of why it's important for orchestras to perform music outside their time-tested canon of standard works written by "white, European males."
"It is my belief that if we are to be well-rounded, egalitarian and a part of the civilization and culture in which we live, it is necessary to sample the wide range of creativity manifested by contemporary composers - our colleagues, friends and heroes," Colnot said in an e-mail.
"While it is often difficult because we have not been acculturated to the 'strange harmonies and melodies,' I believe it is worth the journey. And with each repetition, the music becomes more meaningful and effective."
New work blooms at the Rose
* CONDUCTOR CLIFF COLNOT joins the Utah Symphony Chamber Orchestra for a concert of new music Thursday at the Rose Wagner Performing Arts Center, 138 W. 300 South, Salt Lake City. The concert includes music from Luis Tinoco, Leon Kirchner and Arvo P rt and the world premiere of "Terpsichore's Dream" by New York-born composer Augusta Read Thomas.
* TICKETS ARE $25 and $35. Call 801-355-ARTS or visit http://www.arttix.org.