Thrum-guitar quartet (download)


Guitar quartet–18′

An ebullient work for guitar quartet, with opportunities for individual display, and the repartee of opposing groups.

Listen to three excerpts from the Minneapolis Guitar Quartet’s recording:

Preview the score:


Thrum–Guitar quartet

Guitar quartet
Duration: 18′
Score and parts included.
Commissioned by the Jerome Foundation for the Minneapolis Guitar Quartet.
Premiere—2002, by the Minneapolis Guitar Quartet, Minneapolis, MN.
Recorded by the Minneapolis Guitar Quartet, Innova 858.
85 pages.

Program Note

Poet Donald Hall writes of finding a box of scraps in the attic with the label “string too short to be saved.” The title of this work plays with the thrumming sound a guitar inevitably makes, but also with the notion of string as a bit of thrum. I had in mind the process of weaving bits together to make a sturdy but colorful fabric.

I am not a guitarist. But in my exploration of the instrument over several solo and chamber works I found that comfortable hand positions lead to sweet harmonies. Thrum reflects that relaxed harmonic language. A quartet of guitars has a unified sound, like a big, 24-string instrument. But I was equally interested in creating a concertante work, with opportunities for individual display, and the repartee of opposing groups.

After a brief and lyrical introduction, a perky theme proposes a buoyant concerto movement, with figurative episodes in between statements. In time, there is a second, more lyrical theme, later the principal theme in longer notes, and finally the two themes together.

The slow movement is part philosophy lesson, part stroll to a garden of little bells, where the first notes of the work are recalled, as if in memory. The recessional is leisurely. On the way out of the garden, a developing motive suggests a subject for the final movement’s fugue. A vigorous coda reconciles the guitar’s melodic and chordal natures.

Thrum was commissioned by The Jerome Foundation for the Minneapolis Guitar Quartet, and was premiered by that ensemble in April, 2002 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The performers on that occasion were Alan Johnston, Joseph Hagedorn, O. Nicholas Raths and David Crittenden. In 2013, the MGQ released a fine recording, played by Joseph Hagedorn, Ben Gateño, Wade Oden and Steven Newbrough.

For other guitar works, see The Leaves bee Greene, Bamboo Cottage and Sonata for Piano and Guitar.

Praise for Thrum

A new CD by the Minneapolis Guitar Quartet features Thrum, written for the group in 2002. More about the recording (Innova 858) here. Reviews:

  • “Four strong pieces, one a masterpiece, all in excellent performances…. The real treasure here is David Evan Thomas’s Thrum. It reminds me of Mirto’s Su Bentu—not so much in style as in invention, expressiveness, excitement, and the fresh voice of the composer. Thomas is not a guitarist himself, but he has written for the instrument and has a wonderful touch. Thomas’ website doesn’t list this as published yet, but one can hope.” –Ken Keaton, American Record Guide, July/August 2013
  • “Perhaps the highlight of the collection; certainly the most classic, the three-part frame as well as the use of such forms as fugue, thematic variation, counterpoint, tonal richness. What is surprising is how this passion to be married to a happy and balanced prevalence of sweet melodies and harmonies relaxed, particularly suited to the instrument of the guitar.” –Filippo Focosi, Kathodik (Italy), 3/24/13
  • “The intertwining counterpoint reveals a natural beauty, like vines gently weaving around the same tree.” –Mia Clarke, TimeOut Chicago, 3/14/13
  • Thrum by David Evan Thomas builds on a contrapuntal texture and interesting, melodically distinctive part-writing. This work especially reflects a contemporary take on idiomatic classical guitar soundings and becomes quite ravishing and inventive in the process.” –Grego Applegate Edwards, Gapplegate Classical-Modern Music Review
  • “Thomas tightens the reins to grant more focus on intricacy and ornamental detail. The cohesion between the four players is astonishing—the quartet scatter quickly into harmonic duets before swooping together again to create what sounds like one gigantic harp, dipping and rising in tempo and dynamic with the expressive fluidity of a theatrical monologue.” –Jack Chuter, ATTN Magazine (UK)
  • “Glows with the thematic gifts of a contemporary classical style in search of a new expression while never forgetting the old ways.” –John Garratt, PopMatters, 6/7/13.
  • “Another accessible work, though entirely different in nature. Its three movements have something of the quality of a ‘concerto for guitars’ and the material is thrown between the instruments, keeping us on our toes and providing each player with plenty to do. More importantly this often provides a challenge of continuity, and the Minneapolis players cope admirably. The composer describes the middle movement as ‘part philosophy lesson, part stroll in a garden of little bells,’ and this verdant path leads us into a final movement which has a fugue written into it, but one with a very light and un-academic touch. This is music with great appeal and a high fun-factor.” –Dominy Clements, MusicWeb International

Listen to Valerie Kahler’s MPR article on the release here.


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