Cassandra Miller’s 2020 Thanksong for soprano and string quartet receives its live premiere this summer on 15 August at the Dartington International Summer School. The piece was premiered online in August 2020, but now reaches a live audience for the first time, played by the Quatuor Bozzini and soprano Juliet Fraser, who also recorded it for an online video.
The 15-minute work draws on musical history, as Miller often does in her work. The title references the ‘Heiliger Dankgesang’ from Beethoven’s op.132 String Quartet, summoning the same prayerful and inward mood of that piece’s opening. To compose Thanksong Miller sang along (automatic singing-in-meditation) to the four individual parts of the quartet, many times in repetition, transforming the material into gentle pendulum-like repeated gestures.
The members of the Quatuor Bozzini and Juliet Fraser each perform independently, as if five soloists. The quartet members play the music by ear (with the aid of simplified notation), listening in headphones to Miller’s voice – and the composition is held together by the pacing and breath of Juliet Fraser, as she sings Beethoven’s line as slowly and quietly as possible.
Thanksong will receive its first London performance at Wigmore Hall on 3 December, where Miller will be a Composer-in-Focus, from the Quatuor Bozzini. On 8 July Miller’s Perfect Offering was performed at Wigmore Hall by Explore Ensemble.