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Maria Nockin
Fanfare, November 2012

The chamber ensemble...plays the pieces with a great deal of youthful gusto. © 2012 Fanfare Read complete review




Brian Reinhart
MusicWeb International, May 2012

This is a very fine tasting menu of American chamber music for violin, cello, clarinet and piano. Its four works are united by only one common thread—their extremely high quality. We start with a Libby Larsen work from 2010 and work back to Aaron Copland’s Sextet which adds a violin and viola.

The title of Larsen’s Rodeo Queen from Heaven sounds witty, but it’s really based on a different kind of celestial visitor; the inspiration is a hand-painted wooden carving by Arthur Lopez, of the Madonna bearing a gun and wearing a rodeo costume. Larsen’s piece somehow manages to capture the spirit of this: the piano struts about brash cowboy fashion in the opening moments, and snippets of lyrical Americana-type melody are juggled with wit, rhythmic spunk, and maybe a dash of sarcasm. The heart of the work, though, is a central series of modal meditations on more religiously-toned ideas.

Peter Lieuwen…contributes Gulfstream…quite a pleasure to listen to, and some of the quieter passages (as after 2:45) are frankly wonderful, as is the coda.

…the highlight is Peter Schickele’s quartet of 1982. It is good-humored, but in a friendly, neighborly way, like a warm handshake. Its opening evokes rural Americana, with plenty of good folksy tunes, and its centerpiece is a genuinely emotional elegy in muted colors. The finale is Schickele being witty, but not over-the-top; his humor here is along the lines of Haydn, teasing and playful. One would have to be cold-hearted to dislike music as affectionately done as this.

…Aaron Copland, whose Sextet rounds out the recital…is both playful and confident music anyway.

enhake is an award-winning quartet which is especially active on the contemporary music circuit. They certainly do the composers proud, and cannot be faulted on any grounds: their advocacy is impassioned and their playing is more or less exemplary…The recording is good…This is for fans of good and enjoyable contemporary chamber music, or American music in general… © 2012 MusicWeb International Read complete review



Laurence Vittes
Gramophone, May 2012

…the way in which this recital brings together music of the very highest quality which is rarely encountered in the concert hall, in performances of probing intensity, is encouraging.

Peter Lieuwen’s mostly mellifluous Gulfstream…is entirely noble, and even its few harmonic doubts are washed away by the sheer beauty of the instrumental writing.

…Enhakē show that they can handle the demanding requirements of 20th-century music with equally great skill and aplomb. Pianist Eun-Hee Park’s fast, light-fingered touch in the Schickele provides numerous moments of purely physical delight.

The recorded sound is crisp, clear and clean, and you hear everything each instrument does without losing the impact or flavour of the whole. Good booklet-notes by Elisa Weber. © 2012 Gramophone Read complete review on Gramophone



Anthony Burton
BBC Music Magazine, March 2012

Performance
Recording

BBC Music US Choice

enhakē is a quartet of clarinet, violin, cello and piano which here gives tight, well-characterised performances of four American works. The first two were written for the group. Libby Larsen’s Rodeo Queen of Heaven, inspired by a wooden sculpture of the Madonna and Child in rodeo outfits, ingeniously twists plainchant into jazz and country idioms. Peter Lieuwen’s Gulfstream uses ostinato patterns to evoke water. Peter Schickele’s 1982 Quartet is full of invention, consisting of a flowing opening movement, a jazzy scherzo, a rapt slow movement and a central European hoedown. Finally, adding two string players, there’s an exemplary performance of Copland’s sinewy Sextet, arranged in 19377 from his short Short Symphony, making it sound the masterpiece it is. With a good recording and helpful notes, a highly recommendable issue. © 2012 BBC Music Magazine



Jerry Dubins
Fanfare, March 2012

Enhakē is a fine quartet of musicians that has made quite a name for itself, especially for its dedication to and performance of contemporary music, and it’s no wonder, for this is playing of the very highest caliber. Wonkak Kim produces a clarinet tone as buttery-smooth as any I’ve heard, beautifully balanced and blended over its entire range, with no audible breaks between registers and not a breath intake to be heard. M. Brent Williams’s violin and Jayoung Kim’s cello are equally well matched to each other and to Wonkak’s clarinet. Individually, and as an ensemble, Enhakē plays with perfect intonation and musically expressive articulation. Corinne Stillwell and Pamela Ryan add their own special flair to Enhakē’s smart and classy style in a remarkably adroit performance of Copland’s tricky Sextet.

There is much to discover and enjoy on this latest entry in Naxos’s American Classics series, and I highly recommend it. © 2012 Fanfare Read complete review on Fanfare



Maria Nockin
Fanfare, March 2012

Libby Larsen’s 2010 Rodeo Queen of Heaven was written to express her thoughts on the juxtaposition of Southwestern American culture with Mexican Catholic religious tradition. Larsen…uses this opportunity to combine the music of an ancient Latin Mass in honor of the Virgin Mary with modern harmonies and rhythms. …hers is a strikingly original piece that invites controversy.

Peter Lieuwen’s Gulfstream is his calm and well thought-out musical interpretation of the current that warms much of the coast of Northwestern Europe.

Musically, the most interesting work is the Peter Schickele. His music is always accessible and often melodic, but his style is completely his own. The first movement of his 1982 quartet is marked “moderate and flowing.” It starts off with an interesting theme that leads into a fast-driving second movement.

Aaron Copland’s 1937 Sextet was… a window on the young and relatively unformed Copland. It lets the listener hear some of the bricks of sound that he was using as a young composer, many of which are very different from those in his later works. It brings to a fitting close this interesting survey of 20th and early 21st century chamber music.

…resulting sound is excellent. © 2012 Fanfare Read complete review on Fanfare



Michael Cameron
Fanfare, March 2012

Peter Schickele’s quartet is the most pleasant surprise for these ears…The substantial four-movement piece is a delight from start to finish…This one can stand up to any of them, sporting lithe and buoyant, tightly focused sound, combined with subtly expressive lyricism during slower sections. © 2012 Fanfare Read complete review on Fanfare



Stephen Estep
The Absolute Sound, March 2012

Music
Sonics

Three superb quartets for clarinet, violin, cello, and piano, and the Copland Sextet (adding a violin and viola). Libby Larsen’s Rodeo Queen of Heaven depicts a painting of the Madonna and Child in Western dress; it’s a wild ride, setting chants from the Mass in aggressive poses. Peter Lieuwen’s Gulfstream is both lush and restless. For me, Peter Schickele’s Quartet is the main draw: pleasanter fare than the others, but exquisitely crafted, and 100% American. The first movement smiles serenely as it plays with its harmonies. The second is raucous and bluesy with a melancholy quiet section; the third is built around simple piano octaves, with the other instruments playing a spare chorale. The last is boisterous—there’s just a touch of the Renaissance in the dance rhythms, and drunken (occasionally queasy) sections where the rum-runners set to tippling from their own cargo. The Copland is tonally in between Rodeo and his most dissonant works; it’s spiky, bracing, and interesting. Sonics are fairly close but not dry. Enhakē plays exceptionally well, with good ears for what everyone else is doing. © 2012 The Absolute Sound




Stephen Estep
American Record Guide, March 2012

…if you want the Schickele, I can confidently recommend this recording—the Vanguard is deleted, and the companion pieces here are much more interesting.

Gulfstream is Lieuwen’s aural impression of that natural phenomenon; it’s sober, not too dissonant, and quite well constructed. The Copland is very good, too—the players have a good ear for what the others are doing… © 2012 American Record Guide Read complete review on American Record Guide




Daniel Coombs
Audiophile Audition, January 2012

The bright young ensemble, enhakē, represents an instrumental combination that I have always found appealing and, for which, there are some great pieces of music out there; most famously the massive Quatuor pour le fin du temps by Messiaen. Wonkak Kim, clarinetist, M. Brent Williams, violinist, Jayoung Kim, cellist and Eun-Hee Park, pianist produce some great, tight ensemble sounds are all gifted musicians.

This collection of four fun, perky and totally appealing works by American composers showcases their talents as well as the possibilities of this instrumentation quite well and is well worth your attention!

I love this album! enhakē is a brilliant ensemble and this is a great chamber collection. This is a well- structured and terrifically played program. This ought to appeal to any lover of modern—but accessible—chamber music or any performer looking to get some vibrant new programming ideas (like I now have!) © 2012 Audiophile Audition Read complete review



Jean-Yves Duperron
Classical Music Sentinel, January 2012

The impressive and comprehensive American Classics series of recordings from Naxos keeps growing in leaps and bounds…but still manages to offer up world premiere recordings of works from both new and well established composers. And this new CD is no exception.

Both…Rodeo Queen of Heaven (2010) and…Gulfstream (2007)…certainly present themselves as solid new proponents of American music. The Larsen was commissioned by the members of enhake, and its frenetic and nervous energy serves to emphasize this ensemble’s tight and rapid-fire delivery. The Lieuwen work…with its flowing forward momentum underpinned by a dark and shifting undercurrent (pun intended), brings out these musicians more expressive and emotional qualities. For me, the show-stopper on this CD is the Quartet for Clarinet, Violin, Cello and Piano by Peter Schickele…It is at times melancholy, at times jazzy, dark, tongue in cheek, nostalgic and strangely evocative. …the Sextet for Clarinet, Piano and String Quartet by Aaron Copland…couldn’t have been better chosen to close a CD on American chamber music. A challenging work in all respects, be they musical or technical, but nothing that this group of musicians can’t handle with panache.

These pieces all seem to use the clarinet as the central pivot to the musical drama, and clarinetist Wonkak Kim slips into that role effortlessly, always leading the way where necessary, or taking on the task of being the music’s main backbone. © 2012 Classical Music Sentinel Read complete review



Marvin J. Ward
Classical Voice of North Carolina (cvnc.org), December 2011

The performance is outstanding, highly polished and smooth-flowing. The sound quality is excellent…

This is enjoyable and interesting music exceedingly well played, so a fine offering. © Marvin J. Ward & CVNC. Reproduced with permission. Read complete review



Jordy Kasko
The Tune, November 2011

The clear star of this recording is the chamber group enhakē, consisting of clarinet, violin, cello, and piano. The instrumentation is that of the famous Messien Quartet for the End of Time. What I admire about the group as well as the compositions is that they choose to have that instrumentation but somehow sound like its antithesis. Instead of writing broad soloistic movements like the Quartet for the End of Time, each piece implies a much more homogenous texture. The chamber musicians blend well and manage to have perfect balance and definitive melodic material despite the vast difference in volume between the grand piano, the clarinet, and the strings (perhaps some props should go to the recording engineer on that one too).

…this album embodies the exuberance of 20th- and 21st-century American culture. Each piece on the album presents very distinctive musical viewpoints, but all lie within the context of modern American music. I could not help but put imagery to classic 20th-century American literature such as A Prayer for Owen Meany, To Kill a Mockingbird, and The Great Gatsby while allowing the recording to unfold rich sonorities of open fifths, references to Afro-American church hymns, and old-time fiddling within the tight but expressive group of musicians. I feel that such intimacy of sound within the group demonstrates an exuberant freshness of musical intention. Each player had a distinct sound and yet they seem to vary their sounds in relation to the changing contexts of the pieces to fit the expressive mood they hope to achieve. © 2011 The Tune Read complete review






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