Performed by leading musicians and ensembles across the globe, the music of Kati Agócs is recognized for merging lapidary rigor with sensuous lyricism. The New York Times has characterized her chamber music as "striking," her orchestral music as "filled with attractive ideas," and her vocal music as possessing "an almost 19th-century naturalness," while The Boston Globe has described it as "music of fluidity and austere beauty." The Toronto Star called her orchestral work Shenanigan "a whirl of symphonic fun … a burst of party energy." 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." A citation from the American Academy of Arts and Letters praised the "melody, drama, and clear design" of her music, its "soulful directness," and its "naturalness of dissonance."
Kati Agócs was named a 2013 Guggenheim Fellow by the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation. Her current commissions include a new work for the Boston Symphony Chamber Players in honor of their 50th anniversary; a large-scale work for Boston Modern Orchestra Project (commissioned by the Jebediah Foundation as the final work on an all-Agócs orchestral CD on the BMOP/Sound label); a work for two sopranos and percussion, commissioned by the Canada Council for the Arts; Crystallography (commissioned by Standing Wave Ensemble in Vancouver); and Saint Elizabeth Bells (commissioned by cellist Andre Emelianoff in New York). Premieres in the past year include Northern Lights, premiered at (le) poisson rouge in New York by harpist Bridget Kibbey; Shenanigan with the Toronto Symphony and Hamilton (Ontario) Philharmonic (commissioned by the Hamilton orchestra’s music director, and fellow NEC faculty member, James Sommerville); and Vessel, presented by the New York–based Metropolis Ensemble on a half-program of Kati Agócs works at Symphony Space in Manhattan as part of Meet the Composer’s Three-City Dash Festival, together with an online virtual residency. Boston Modern Orchestra Project (Gil Rose, conductor) performed Vessel in NEC’s Jordan Hall on their “True North” program in November 2011, in addition to performing and recording three other recent orchestral works for the upcoming CD.
Orchestral and large-ensemble music has been her focus in recent years. Among additional larger recent works are her Requiem Fragments, commissioned and premiered by the CBC Radio Orchestra in 2008; Elysium, for amplified cello, ensemble, and tape, written for Cultural Olympiad of the Vancouver Winter Olympics and premiered in Vancouver in 2010; Pearls, commissioned by the American Composers Orchestra; and Perpetual Summer, commissioned for the 50th anniversary of the National Youth Orchestra of Canada, of which Agócs was composer-in-residence. Perpetual Summer, premiered in July 2010 at the National Arts Centre in Ottawa, addresses the issue of global warming, and was the runner-up in ASCAP’s 2011 Rudolph Nissim Competition, one of three works selected by a jury of conductors out of over 260 anonymously submitted new orchestral scores. It was revised in 2012, and the revised version has yet to be premiered. It will be performed by the Minnesota Orchestra on their Future Classics concert in January 2014.
Her solo and chamber works are frequently performed as well; among others, harpist Bridget Kibbey has incorporated Agócs’s Every Lover Is a Warrior into her regular recital repertoire, and her violin and piano work Supernatural Love has toured the world. The Grammy-winning new music group eighth blackbird toured the U.S. with Immutable Dreams, which was written originally for the Da Capo Chamber Players and has been taken up by at least eight other ensembles since its premiere in 2007. Her chamber music was broadcast and is archived by WQXR as an audience-choice winner at the SONiC (Sounds of a New Century) Festival in New York during October 2011.
Awards include a 2008 Charles Ives Fellowship from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, a residency to sing her work with orchestra from Meet the Composer and the American Symphony Orchestra League’s "Music Alive: New Partnerships," the 2007 ASCAP Leonard Bernstein Fellowship at the Tanglewood Music Center, multiple grants from the Canada Council for the Arts, a Fulbright Fellowship to the Franz Liszt Academy in Budapest, a Jacob K. Javits Fellowship from the U.S. Department of Education, the Presser Foundation Award, and honors from ASCAP in their Morton Gould Young Composer Awards.
She has been composer-in-residence with the Great Lakes Chamber Music Festival Fellowships and has received fellowships and residencies from the New York Foundation for the Arts, the Norfolk Chamber Music Festival (Yale Summer School of Music), the Aspen Music Festival, Dartington International Music Festival (U.K.), Virginia Arts Festival, Yaddo, and MacDowell colonies. Agócs performs as a soprano in her own music as well; she has sung By the Streams of Babylon many times (including BMOP’s performance, joined by Lisa Bielawa), in addition to her chamber work Awakening Galatea. She has written on recent American and Hungarian music for Tempo and The Musical Times.
Kati Agócs earned doctoral and master's degrees from the Juilliard School, where her principal teacher was Milton Babbitt. She maintains a work studio in the village of Flatrock, near St. John’s, Newfoundland.
Master's degree, D.M.A., The Juilliard School. Studies at the Liszt Academy in Budapest, Aspen Music School, Tanglewood, Lester B. Pearson College of the Pacific (United World Colleges), and Sarah Lawrence College. Composition with Milton Babbitt, Robert Beaser, and George Tsontakis. Additional studies with Zoltán Jeney, Michael Gandolfi, John Harbison, Joan Tower, Dean Drummond, Christopher Rouse, and James MacMillan. Voice with Adele Addison and Adrienne Csengery.
photo © Samantha West Photography