Thomas, John Patrick: »Lost Landscapes« and Other Works for Piano (1964-1996)

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Lost Landscapes 1a
Lost Landscapes 1b
Lost Landscapes 2
Lost Landscapes 3
Lost Landscapes 4
145 West 145th Street
Hafenlieder 1
Hafenlieder 2
Hafenlieder 3
Hafenlieder 4
Hafenlieder 5
Emrick Variations

The pieces in this volume were composed over a period of more than thirty years. The oldest, 145 West 85th Street, was written between 1964 and 1971; the other pieces date from the 1990s. I think the places in which these works were written affected their composition, yet none is meant to be an illustration or portrait.
I composed Lost Landscapes in the summer of 1993 in Harvey, North Dakota, after attending a reunion of the Columbus ( later American ) Boychoir School near Princeton, New Jersey. That return to the scene of my boarding school days (1952–1956) was both moving and energizing. The first four pieces of this cycle are dedicated to one of my old schoolmates there ( a wonderful pianist ) and to members of his family. The last piece, however, was written in response to the unexpected death of a Wyoming high school friend.
145 W. 85th Street was strongly influenced by two things: my friendship with the composer-pianist David Del Tredici ( I have known him since I was 17 ) and the death of a friend from a drug overdose in the summer of 1964. Michael Tillotson, a Bay Area friend, commissioned the work. The address in the title is that of an apartment I visited in New York City in 1964, when West 85th Street was said to have one of the highest crime rates of any street in the nation. I started to compose this work in the fall of 1964 in Berkeley, California, following my first summer at the Tanglewood Festival in Massachusetts. I later worked on the piece in Buffalo, New York, while teaching there, finishing it in London in 1971. It seems to me
now that, in writing it, I was shaking off inhibitions accumulated during my years as a student. I was very grateful three decades later when the pianist Pi-hsien Chen took an interest in the piece and proposed a recording (which, by the way, includes all the music in this volume ).
I began work on the five pieces that make up the Hafenlieder in 1989. At that time, the city of Hamburg in Germany ( where I have lived since 1981 ) was celebrating its harbor’s 800th anniversary. Though the pieces are primarily about different ways of playing the piano, some of their character comes from the idea of destinations sought, struggled toward, achieved, and sometimes abandoned. The last piece is dedicated to the memory of a Dallas friend who died of AIDS.
The Emrick Variations refer to a small town in central North Dakota near the family farm where my mother was born. I visited her in the summers after she moved back to North Dakota from Wyoming in 1983. When I wrote these variations, in 1996, I was unaware that my mother had only a few months to live. I didn’t know, but it’s as if the music did.
I would like to express my thanks to Diane and Jan Williams and to Ann Holyoke Lehmann for their help in the preparation of these scores, to Richard Rieves for his assistance in matters great and small, and to Pi-hsien Chen, the first pianist to play and record this music.
JPT Hamburg, January 2023

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Thomas, John Patrick (*1941)

John Patrick Thomas was born in Denver, Colorado, in 1941, and began his music studies as a member of the American Boychoir in Princeton, New Jersey. At the age of 16, he became a composition student of Darius Milhaud and Charles Jones at the Aspen Music School in Colorado and later studied with Andrew Imbrie and Seymour Shifrin at the University of California in Berkeley. In 1971, he began a concert and opera career in Europe as a countertenor with a special interest in New Music. William Bolcom, David Del Tredici, Morton Feldman, Michael Finnissy, Lukas Foss, Mauricio Kagel, Elisabeth Lutyens, and Krzysztof Penderecki are among the composers who have written for his voice. Thomas was a founding member of The Five Centuries Ensemble, which was known for innovative programming that juxtaposed Early Music and works by contemporary composers. He lives in Hamburg.