, May 2003
"Given how often these chamber works by John Harbison are played in concert, it is somewhat surprising that this is the first CD to offer them on one program...Although both pieces on this recording were taken from live performances by the fine members of Spectrum Concerts Berlin, the sound is not compromised in the slightest...Violinist Janine Jansen, clarinetist Lars Wouters van den Oudenweijer, and pianist Daniel Blumenthal fashion terrific ensemble playing and really bring this music to life.
Twilight Music is a sort of desultory conversation among the piano, violin, and horn, wherein the separate instruments, in an attempt to highlight their differences, occasionally come together in brief unison lines before moving on. As might be expected, the horn (played to perfection by Bernhard Krug) sticks out, both in terms of sonority and technique (the Presto second movement being particularly difficult for the instrument). The deceptively simple third movement (Antiphon) demonstrates just how much Harbison is able to say in such a compact form, probably the truest test of his prodigious compositional skills.
In the middle of this disc, which because of its rich content seems longer than 53 minutes, is the eloquent and intimate Four Songs of Solitude for solo violin, written as a present for Harbison's wife. Harbison is at pains to depict these as songs (as opposed to any other form) and no doubt this element is caught in their improvisational style, full of intervallic leaps, sighing arpeggios, and flexible tempos. Jansen gives a free-spirited, committed performance (this time, in the studio) and negotiates the more technically bracing fourth song with the same grace as the more lyrical ones before it. Without much in the way of competition, this latest entry in Naxos' American Classics imprint is welcome and long overdue."