The music of Kati Agócs has been honored and performed worldwide, delivering both visceral power and otherworldly lyricism with soulful directness. From folk music of an imaginary culture to volatile spectralism, polytextual vocal ensembles to large symphonic forces, her work embraces the 21st-century orchestra in all of its protean possibilities. The Boston Globe has praised its elegance, citing “music of fluidity and austere beauty” with “a visceral intensity of expression” and encouraging audience members to "go, listen, and be changed." The New York Times has characterized her chamber music as “striking” and her vocal music as possessing “an almost nineteenth-century naturalness.” A recent Guggenheim Fellow, she is also a winner of the prestigious Arts and Letters Award, the lifetime achievement award in music composition from The American Academy of Arts and Letters. The Debrecen Passion, her album with Boston Modern Orchestra Project, is one of The Boston Globe’s Top Ten Classical Recordings of 2016. The title track was nominated for Classical Composition of the Year in the 2017 Juno Awards by the Canadian Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences. In the U.K., MusicWeb International celebrated the CD as a Recording of the Year, calling it "highly imaginative and compelling." Reviewing the CD, Audiophile Audition named Kati Agócs “one of the brightest stars in her generation of composers.”
“A STUNNER” (OREGON ARTSWATCH)
"SUBLIME…UNMISTAKABLY MODERN" (THE BOSTON GLOBE)
“high-craft, high-drama MUSIC” (WQXR)
“Stunningly varied works that clearly emerge from a single personality” (Boston Musical Intelligencer)
“innovative…powerful” (Time Out New York)
"penetrating individuality...an iridescent wonder" (gramophone MAGAZINE)
The music of Kati Agócs is hailed for merging sensuous allure with lapidary rigor and performed by leading musicians worldwide. Often praised for its elegance and emotion, it delivers visceral power and otherworldly lyricism with soulful directness. The Boston Globe has called it “music of fluidity and austere beauty.” The New York Times has characterized her chamber music as “striking” and her vocal music as possessing “an almost nineteenth-century naturalness.” Gramophone Magazine has cited the “penetrating individuality” of her vocal/orchestral music, calling it "an iridescent wonder." A recent Guggenheim Fellow, Kati Agócs has also been awarded the prestigious Arts and Letters Award, the lifetime achievement award in music composition from The American Academy of Arts and Letters. Recent works include her second string quartet Imprimatur, the piano trio Queen of Hearts, and the Concerto for Violin and Percussion Orchestra. The Debrecen Passion, her orchestral/vocal album with Boston Modern Orchestra Project, was one of The Boston Globe’s Top Ten Classical Recordings of 2016. The title track was nominated for Classical Composition of the Year in the 2017 Juno Awards, the Canadian equivalent of the Grammy Awards. In the U.K., MusicWeb International celebrated the CD as a "highly imaginative and compelling" Recording of the Year. Kati Agócs is a citizen of the United States, Canada, and Hungary (European Union). She currently serves on the composition faculty of the New England Conservatory in Boston.
Saint Elizabeth Bells with No Exit New Music Ensemble and Chester Englander, Guest Artist, on Cimbalom: three performances and premiere recording in Cleveland, OH; See concert details (September 2019)
The 2019 Aspen Music Festival features Concerto for Violin and Percussion Orchestra with Jennifer Koh as soloist (August 2019)
Horn Concerto for James Sommerville co-commissioned for premiere in the 2020-2021 concert season by an international Consortium of five orchestras: Symphony Nova Scotia, Sioux City Symphony Orchestra, Manitoba Chamber Orchestra, Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra, and Prince Edward Island Symphony Orchestra (May 2019)
Reviews of Imprimatur (String Quartet #2) in its Prairie premiere by the Jupiter String Quartet: “Modern, lyrical, and fugue-like in its interplay between the four players… a roller coaster of sound, emotion and technique”- Debra Domal, Smile Politely (Champaign-Urbana’s Culture Magazine) Read the review “Some of the most attractive contemporary music I have recently heard” - John Frayne, The News-Gazette (Champaign, IL) Read the review (May 2019)
New article in Sonograma Magazine: “Contemplation to Transcendence in the Polytextual Music of Kati Agócs” by Katherine Balch. Read the article here (May 2019)
World Premiere with Ashmont Hill Chamber Music, April 2019: The Boston Globe’s Winter Arts Preview features Rogue Emoji , commissioned by Ashmont Hill Chamber Music for Hub New Music with support from the Cricket Foundation, in its Classical Music Picks
Canadian premiere of Immutable Dreams with Continuum in Toronto; Swedish premiere of Nostalgia for Airs Unheard by pianist Roland Pöntinen in Stockholm; U.S. premiere of Nostalgia for Airs Unheard by pianist Jiaqi Long in New York, January 2019
First review of Imprimatur in the Boston Musical Intelligencer: “technically expressive counterpoint…as a throbbing prayer, the movement scaled heightened rhythmic suspense…” Read the review; Hear the piece; Watch a video of a performance of the piece by The Jupiter Quartet October 2018
Chicago Composers Orchestra under Allen Tinkham performs ...like treasure hidden in a field, August 2018
Kati Agócs is a visiting composer at the Bowdoin International Music Festival Read details here, July 2018
Imprimatur, second string quartet by Kati Agócs, commissioned jointly by the Aspen Music Festival and School, the Harvard Musical Association, and the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts/University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaigne in honour of the 15th Anniversary of the Jupiter String Quartet; World Premiere performance opens the 2018 Aspen Music Festival; Read the Aspen Times article; Read the Aspen Daily News article; hear the piece; June 2018
The Vancouver Symphony Orchestra Chamber Players perform the Canadian premieres of Vessel and Devotion with Bramwell Tovey conducting, May 2018
Concerto for Violin and Percussion Orchestra world premiere by violinist Nicholas Kitchen, conductor Frank Epstein, and the New England Conservatory Percussion Ensemble (Commissioned by the Fromm Foundation of Harvard University), April 2018. CD release release to follow on the Naxos label
Gramophone Magazine reviews the album The Debrecen Passion: "an iridescent wonder...penetrating individuality....vocal and instrumental splendour....evokes specific sacred texts or implications to haunting impact....a composer of imposing artistic gifts"
The Prince Edward Island Symphony premieres A Hero's Welcome under Mark Shapiro (Co-commission by the Toronto Symphony Orchestra and the P.E.I. Symphony Orchestra) ; Watch a video of the Eastlink TV Broadcast of the performance here
Queen of Hearts (Piano Trio commissioned by Chamber Music Northwest) performed by the Claremont Trio at Ashmont Hill Chamber Music: "[the piece] draws one in and gratifies with its clear communication" (Boston Musical Intelligencer)
Review of Queen of Hearts World Premiere: "an artist with ravenous taste and the skills to match"; Oregon Artswatch Preview: World premiere of Piano Trio Queen of Hearts by the Claremont Trio at Chamber Music Northwest
The Debrecen Passion is on the The Boston Globe's list of the Top Ten Classical Albums of 2016: "sublime....a mystical confluence of the sacred and secular illuminated by the superb Lorelei Ensemble and BMOP"
The Debrecen Passion is a 2016 MusicWeb International Recording of the Year: "highly imaginative and compelling"
U.S. premiere of Tantric Variations at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. on Stradivari instruments by the Cecilia String Quartet: Listen to the performance on demand via WQXR/Read the writeup in the Washington Post
Boston Globe profile on The Debrecen Passion premiere
Review of Toronto Symphony Orchestra performance of Perpetual Summer by Ontario Arts Review: "Gripping...an ideal choice as the overture for the evening's program"
Boston Globe review of portrait concert in Jordan Hall, Boston: "Hub New Music transports with all-Kati Agócs program"
Boston Musical Intelligencer review of Kati Agócs portrait concert in Jordan Hall, Boston: "Stunningly varied works that clearly emerge from a single personality...a distinct voice that is challenging without being elusive... an unshakable emotional core"
The Debrecen Passion is New York's WQXR Q2 Album of the Week: "high-craft, high-drama music...hurtles themes of love and devotion through a particularly intense prism of influences and language"
WBUR ARTery reviews The Debrecen Passion: "starkly beautiful solo sections, duos, and trios...the feeling is religious, deeply spiritual, but it's the sound that tells you this, not the words"
Audiophile Audition reviews The Debrecen Passion: "One of the brightest stars in her generation of composers.."
Boston Musical Intelligencer Interview with Kati Agócs
Hear the work and see movement listings here
Emily Siar and Elaine Daiber, Soprano and handbells, Jordan Hall, Boston
AGÓCS - THE DEBRECEN PASSION
The music of Kati Agócs on the Boston Modern Orchestra Project’s new recording shimmers and seethes, reflecting the tensions that the Canadian composer sets forth in vocal and instrumental splendour. Each of the five works possesses a sound world that evokes the specific sacred texts or implications to haunting impact.
Agócs pays tribute to her Hungarian heritage in the disc’s titular score, The Debrecen Passion, a setting of Christ’s persecution and death built around verses by the poet Szilárd Borbély (1963-2014), a native of the Hungarian city of Debrecen. As she melds the 12 female voices of the remarkable Lorelei Ensemble with glowing orchestral sonorities, Agócs also suspends vocal lines on Latin and Jewish texts. The 23‑minute work is an iridescent wonder.
Agócs shares more of her bold sense of colour and architecture in the other pieces, including two for orchestra alone. Requiem Fragments evolves from peaceful to anguished episodes through seamless interweaving of incandescent themes. A different array of spiritual moods unfolds in … Like Treasure Hidden in a Field, which highlights Agócs’s keen ear for instrumental possibilities.
Voices again collaborate with orchestra in By the Streams of Babylon, with two sopranos (Agócs and Lisa Bielawa) lifting Psalm 137 on phrases that leap and float, and sound both ancient and contemporary. Vessel exemplifies the composer’s penetrating individuality in a work set in English, Hebrew and Latin scored for chamber ensemble, two sopranos and alto (Margot Rood, Sonja Tengblad and Katherine Growdon).
The Boston Modern Orchestra Project and conductor Gil Rose invest each score with incisive and brilliant intensity, as do all of the vocalists. They should continue to champion Agócs, a composer of imposing artistic gifts.
- DONALD ROSENBERG (OCTOBER 2017)