Adrian Thomas began composing at school and continued as a student with experimental graphic scores. His discovery of Lutosławski’s music in 1968 led to a creative rethink and a series of works in the 1970s and 80s which drew on Lutosławski’s harmonic ideas, on techniques of motivic rotation, and on the pared-down textures and modalism of Górecki and Adams.
He held composition fellowships in 1983, 1986 and 1987 at the MacDowell Colony in New Hampshire (right) and in 1987 at VCCA in Virginia. In 1988, he participated (as a composer) in the Gulbenkian Foundation Dance Course. A number of his pieces have been inspired by Polish topics, including a BBC commission, Black Rainbow (1981-89), which commemorated the loss of civil liberties under martial law in Poland. He has also been much influenced by Japanese poetry and Zen Buddhist philosophy.
Many of his works have been broadcast on BBC Radio 3 as well as on radio stations in Belfast, Dublin, New York, Cincinnati and elsewhere. Intrada (1981) was performed several times during the Ulster Orchestra’s tour of the United States in Jan-Feb 1992 and Black Rainbow has been broadcast on BBC Radio 3 in three different performances.
Selected works (** = premiere)
• busonku (1978) for septet; ** QUBEnsemble, directed by Adrian Thomas, Belfast Festival at Queen’s, 14 November 1978
• mazurek (1979) for cello and piano; ** John O’Kane and Adrian Thomas, Belfast Festival at Queen’s, November 1979
• this turning tree (Causley) (1980) for tenor and piano
• in wild quiet (1980, rev.82) for septet, ‘seven images with complex diagonals’ inspired by the paintings of Patrick Heron; ** Lontano, conducted by Odaline de la Martinez, MusICA, London, 23 November 1980
• Britain in the Thirties (1981), title music for BBC2 TV series
• Intrada (1981) for orchestra; ** Ulster Orchestra, conducted by Owain Arwel Hughes, Belfast Festival at Queen’s, 13 November 1981
• Elegy (1983) for violin and piano; ** Paul Barritt and William Howard, Sonorities Festival, Belfast, 24 April 1983
• Salford Carol (John Short), Kołysanka polska (Polish Carol) (Juliusz Słowacki), Winter Round Carol (Conrad Hilberry) (1983) for a capella chorus
• Rau (1985), four incantations for string octet (St Ives Festival commission); ** IMS Prussia Cove Ensemble, directed by the composer, St Ives, 13 September 1985
• The Writing on the Wall (1985), title music for Channel 4 TV series
• Kuo-an Variations (1987) for solo viola (English Chamber Orchestra Society commission); ** Jonathan Barritt, Purcell Room, London, 2 April 1987
• Man mai longe lives weene (anon. English 13th-century) (1988) for a cappella chorus (Cork International Choral Festival commission); ** Madrigal ’75, conducted by Geoffrey Spratt, 1 May 1988
• Aeolian Sanctus (1988) for SATB chorus and guitar; ** Northfield Mt Hermon Singers, conducted by Sheila Heffernon, Northfield MA, 8 May 1988
• The Eye of the Beholder (Elegy, Rau, The Writing on the Wall); ** dance premiere, Merry Conway and Noni Pratt, New York, 3-20 November 1988
• Black Rainbow (Stanisław Młodożeniec, Józef Czechowicz, Jan Kasprowicz and Antoni Malczewski) (1981-89) for eight-part chorus (BBC commission); ** BBC Singers, conducted by John Poole, Sonorities Festival, Belfast, 21 April 1989