D(i)agon(als) – Augusta Read Thomas

This is the first in a series of spotlight posts on solo clarinet repertoire composed by women. Up first, Augusta Read Thomas’ D(i)agon(als).

D(i)agon(als) was commissioned in honor of clarinetist Russell Dagon in 2005, and premiered at Northwestern by J. Lawrie Bloom in May of that year. The piece is a tight five minutes of playful and improvisational-sounding material, with a wide range of characters in its short duration. It’s as fun to play as it is to listen to.

Structurally it consists of five sections of increasing length, described by Thomas as “phrases”. Indeed, there is little that could be heard of as cadential until the fermatas that punctuate the ending of each phrase, making part of the challenge of the piece giving each of the lengthy phrases shape and direction. The other challenge of the piece is in the idiomatic yet virtuosic writing for the clarinet – everything lies under the fingers quite nicely, but there are some difficult passages around the break. The piece also demands great control and flexibility, as Thomas tasks the clarinetist with sudden changes in register, dynamic, and mood throughout the piece.

Pedagogically, this piece is a good early step into contemporary clarinet repertoire for an advanced student with a solid altissimo, as its virtuosity is in conventional technique, with nothing that would be considered an extended technique. The wide leaps are helpful in developing the registral flexibility necessary for many contemporary works, but in a manageable package that is not a test of endurance.

Purchase D(i)agon(als) on JW Pepper.

Hear me performing the piece in December 2017:



Music By Women Festival

I am honored to have been selected to perform at the 2019 Music By Women Festival, hosted by the Mississippi University for Women from March 7-9 of next year. Founded by Dr. Julia Mortyakova, this is the festival’s third year presenting music composed by women composers past and present.

I’ll be performing a solo clarinet set including Sonorous Body by Liza Lim and a new piece that Ania Sundstrom is writing for me.

Figmentum has also been selected, and we’ll be playing new pieces by Niloufar Iravani and Kari Besharse, as well as Ania’s Another to Echo, part of our repertoire last season.

I’ll post more information her about specific dates and times as they are available. In the meantime, I think I’ll start doing some spotlight posts on clarinet solo pieces by women. This was a blind spot of mine in my training, and I’ve been determined to correct it, and hopefully this will be a resource for other clarinetists and teachers to diversify their own repertoire.