“One of the brightest stars in her generation of composers” (Audiophile Audition), Kati Agócs writes music that is heard with increasing regularity across the U.S., Canada, and Europe. Her diverse and growing body of work is hailed for merging sensuous allure with lapidary rigor and delivers a searing emotional impact. 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.” Gramophone Magazine has praised the "penetrating individuality" of her music, calling it an "iridescent wonder." 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, and a 2017 Juno Award nominee for Classical Composition of the Year.
“One of the brightest stars in her generation of composers” (Audiophile Audition), Kati Agócs writes music that is heard with increasing regularity across the U.S., Canada, and Europe. Her diverse and growing body of work is hailed for merging sensuous allure with lapidary rigor, and is often praised for its elegance and emotion. The Boston Globe has called it “music of fluidity and austere beauty” with “a visceral intensity of expression.” 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 music, calling it an "iridescent wonder." 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, and a 2017 Juno Award nominee for Classical Composition of the Year.
From folk music of an imaginary culture to volatile spectralism, polytextual vocal ensembles to large symphonic forces, the music of Kati Agócs embraces the 21st-century orchestra in all of its protean possibilities. In Summer 2019 she returns to the Aspen Music Festival and School with Jennifer Koh performing her Concerto for Violin and Percussion Orchestra. Other highlights in the 2018-2019 concert season include the New York premiere of Hyacinth Curl on Dawn Upshaw’s vocal program at National Sawdust in New York; ...like treasure hidden in a field performed by Chicago Composers Orchestra with Allen Tinkham conducting; the Canadian premiere of Immutable Dreams with Continuum in Toronto (and performances of the work by four other ensembles in Pittsburgh, Denver, Boston, and at the Walden School, where Agócs serves as Composer in Residence this summer); the world premiere of the new mixed quartet Rogue Emoji for Hub New Music in Boston commissioned by Ashmont Hill Chamber Music with support from the Cricket Foundation; Swedish and U.S. premieres of Nostalgia for Airs Unheard in Stockholm and New York; the piano trio Queen of Hearts at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum with The Claremont Trio; the Boston premiere of Imprimatur (second String Quartet) by the Jupiter String Quartet at the Harvard Musical Association; Devotion in a new string orchestra version premiered by the Oberlin Sinfonietta conducted by Tim Weiss; and a concert series showcasing music by Kati Agócs as part of her curatorial residency with Metropolis Ensemble in New York, including New York premieres of Tantric Variations (String Quartet #1) and Ambrosiana, a new work for solo piano commissioned by the Sioux City Symphony Orchestra for the Iowa Piano Competition. Taking place at 1 Rivington Street in the Bowery, her residency and concert series will continue in Fall 2019. Currently she is working on a Horn Concerto for James Sommerville with similar instrumentation to that of Mozart’s Third Horn Concerto, co-commissioned by a consortium of five orchestras in the U.S and Canada for premiere in the 2020-2021 concert season.
In 2018 the Aspen Music Festival opened with the world premiere of Kati Agócs’s second string quartet Imprimatur, commissioned jointly by the Aspen Music Festival and School, the Harvard Musical Association, and the Krannert Center/University of Illinois in celebration of the 15th anniversary of The Jupiter String Quartet. Also in 2018 the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra gave the Canadian premieres of Vessel and Devotion under conductor Bramwell Tovey, and her new Concerto for Violin and Percussion Orchestra, commissioned by the Fromm Music Foundation at Harvard University, had its world premiere by Nicholas Kitchen and the New England Conservatory Percussion Ensemble, conducted by Frank Epstein. Premieres in the 2016-2017 season included a short orchestral work co-commissioned by the Toronto Symphony Orchestra and the Prince Edward Island Symphony Orchestra; the short work for solo piano commissioned by the Sioux City Symphony Orchestra for performance by the finalists in the Iowa Piano Competition; the U.S. premiere of her first string quartet at the Library of Congress; and the Piano Trio Queen of Hearts, commissioned by Chamber Music Northwest for the Claremont Trio. Reviewing the world premiere of the piano trio, Oregon Artswatch called Kati Agócs "an artist with ravenous taste and the skills to match."
The first album devoted to recordings of Kati Agócs’s orchestral and vocal music was released on the BMOP/sound label in 2016. New York’s WQXR called The Debrecen Passion “high-craft, high-drama music” which “hurtles themes of love and devotion through a particularly intense prism of influences and language”, while Boston’s WBUR described it as “deeply spiritual.” The Boston Globe named the album one of the Top Ten Classical Recordings of 2016, and MusicWeb International named it a 2016 Recording of the Year. The title track was nominated for Classical Composition of the Year in the 2017 Juno Awards, the Canadian equivalent of the Grammy Awards. The Debrecen Passion, the title track, is a work for chorus and orchestra premiered by Lorelei Ensemble and Boston Modern Orchestra Project as a Jedediah Foundation commission. At the premiere, The Boston Musical Intelligencer cited vocal music that was “ravishing” and “orchestral interludes of great power and beauty,” while Boston Classical Review characterized the work as “a kind of Song-of-Solomon like merging of spiritual and earthly ecstasy…unpredictable to the end.”
Music by Kati Agócs has been commissioned and performed by many premier ensembles and organizations including the Toronto Symphony, the Boston Symphony Chamber Players, the Minnesota Orchestra, the American Composers Orchestra, Ensemble Reconsil Vienna, Lontano (London, U.K.), the Albany Symphony Orchestra, the Da Capo Chamber Players, Ensemble Contemporain de Montreal, the New Juilliard Ensemble, PRISM Saxophone Quartet, and the multiple Grammy-award winning ensemble eighth blackbird, who toured the U.S. with her Immutable Dreams. Recent commissions include Devotion for the 50th Anniversary of the Boston Symphony Chamber Players; Tantric Variations for the Cecilia String Quartet; Vessel for New York’s Metropolis Ensemble; Requiem Fragments for the CBC Radio Orchestra; Perpetual Summer for the 50th Anniversary of the National Youth Orchestra of Canada, Elysium, premiered by the National Arts Center Orchestra at the 2010 Winter Olympics; the short orchestral fanfare Shenanigan commissioned by James Sommerville for the Hamilton Philharmonic Orchestra, “a hoedown whirl of symphonic fun… a burst of party energy” (The Toronto Star); and Crystallography, commissioned by Canada’s Standing Wave Ensemble and noted by Vancouver Classical Music for its “wondrous ease and flow” and “exotic rhythms.”
In January 2016 a portrait concert of Kati Agócs’s chamber works by was presented in Boston by Hub New Music. The Boston Musical Intelligencer noted "stunningly varied works that clearly emerge from a single personality...a distinct voice that is challenging without being elusive…an unshakable emotional core.” Chamber works by Kati Agócs are championed by leading performers such as saxophonist Timothy McAllister, pianist Fredrik Ullén, and harpist Bridget Kibbey. Time Out New York listed Kibbey’s album 'Love Is Come Again' – featuring Agócs’s Every Lover is a Warrior – as one of its top ten recordings of 2007. Fanfare magazine hailed her violin-piano duet Supernatural Love as “serene and unworldly, exploring space with sound in a way that seems to evoke the time before the universe hosted life.”
Awards and honours include the Guggenheim Fellowship; the Arts and Letters Award, Charles Ives Fellowship and Charles Ives Scholarship from the American Academy of Arts and Letters; The Boston Foundation’s inaugural Brother Thomas Fellowship; Composer fellowships from the Massachusetts Arts Council and the New York Foundation for the Arts, the ASCAP Leonard Bernstein Fellowship at the Tanglewood Music Center; a recording grant from the Aaron Copland Fund for Music; a Fulbright Fellowship to the Liszt Academy in Budapest; a Jacob K. Javits Fellowship from the U.S. Department of Education; residencies at the MacDowell Colony and Yaddo, the Presser Foundation Award, and others. She has served as Composer-in Residence with the Chelsea Music Festival in New York, with the Great Lakes Chamber Music Festival, and with the National Youth Orchestra of Canada for its Fiftieth Anniversary Season.
In its award citations, The American Academy of Arts and Letters said: “The music of Kati Agócs reveals a wonderfully accessible lyricism that unfolds with both drama and complexity…it is music that seems to come directly from nature. It reaches the hearer through melody and clear design, with its soulful directness and its naturalness of dissonance.”
Born in 1975 in Canada of Hungarian and American parents, Kati Agócs earned doctoral and Masters degrees from the Juilliard School, where her principal teacher was Milton Babbitt, and has served on the composition faculty at the New England Conservatory in Boston since 2008. She is also an alumna of the Aspen Music School, Tanglewood Music Festival, Sarah Lawrence College, and Lester B. Pearson College of the Pacific (United World Colleges). She has written on recent American and Hungarian music for Tempo, and wrote a candid inside glimpse into the new-music scene in Hungary for The Musical Times. She had previously spearheaded an exchange program between the Juilliard School and the Liszt Academy in Budapest. As a result of these activities, the progressive Vienna-based publication Bécsi Napló credited her with raising the visibility of Hungarian composers abroad. Kati Agócs is a citizen of the United States, Canada, and Hungary (European Union). Her works are published by Kati Agócs Music and, as of June 2019, are distributed internationally by Theodore Front Musical Literature.