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Wes Blomster
Daily Camera (Boulder, CO), January 2010

Paul Moravec’s ‘Tempest’ Fantasy based on ‘white-hot fury’ of Patrick Stewart performance…it all started when Patrick Stewart tired of life in outer space and came back to earth. In 1995 Stewart played Prospero in Shakespeare’s “Tempest” in New York’s Public Theater. He played the role, a critic noted, “with white hot fury.” Composer Paul Morovec, in the audience, found Stewart “extraordinary” and went home and began the work that brought him the Pulitzer in 2004: “Tempest Fantasy.” The completed score was dedicated to the Trio Solisti, who—with the help of clarinetist David Krakauer—recorded it for Naxos.

Moravec is listed as a “new tonalist,” a composer who began his career when music was moving away from the academic aura of post-Webern serialism. He sees himself as neither embarrassed nor paralyzed by tradition. Ask about his approach to composition, Moravec responds that “all musical works have to work musically. There must be in them an internal musical logic. If that is not there, they are not valid.”

Moravec, currently head of the music department at Adelphi University, has taught at Harvard, Columbia, Dartmouth and Hunter College.

Christopher Lathan
Limelight, October 2007

This re-release of Arabesque’s recording of Paul moravec’s chamber works for piano trio and clarinet is just fantastic. The Tempest Fantasy (for the same lineup as the Messiaen Quartet for the End of Time but it couldn’t sound more different) won the Pulitzer Prize for music and deservedly so. It is one of the most engaging, ebullient and thoroughly interesting modern works I have heard in a long time. It is dedicated to the players on the disc…They are astoundingly good and play with verve and flair. This is a CD that proves new music can be smart, funny, moving, popular and original. If you don’t like new music, then buy this disc and be surprised.

Phillip Scott
Fanfare, October 2007

Somebody at Naxos certainly keeps a sharp eye on the deletion lists. The company picked the plums out of the defunct Collins Classics catalog, licensed the Seattle SO tapes of American symphonies from Delos, and now they have rescued the above recording from Arabesque. It appeared as recently as 2005 with much fanfare (no pun intended) and a double review by Walter Simmons and Robert Carl in Fanfare 28:5, mainly because Moravec’s Tempest Fantasy won the 2004 Pulitzer Prize. Carl described Paul Moravec’s music as “both challenging and accessible,” and Simmons mentioned its “graceful fluidity of phraseology and…mercurial effervescence.

Trio Solisti are the indomitable Maria Bachmann (violin), Alexis Pia Gerlach (cello) and Jon Klibonoff (piano); with clarinetist David Krakauer, they gave the premiere performance of the five-movement Tempest Fantasy, a work inspired by aspects of Shakespeare’s play. Originally, the composer had written a short violin and piano piece called Ariel Fantasy for Bachmann and Klibonoff; at the violinist’s suggestion, Moravec expanded it into the larger work. “Ariel” forms the opening movement of the Tempest Fantasy, played by the quartet, but the original duo version has also been recorded by Bachmann and Klibonoff (Endeavor 1020) and another terrific performance of it exists, courtesy of Naxos, played by Peter Sheppard-Skærved and Aaron Shorr (8.559267). No doubt many aficionados will be gently kicking themselves that this CD has reappeared all over the world at a bargain price, but for the rest of us, (particularly any new-music skeptics) it is an unmissable investment. Moravec’s music is wonderful: not just the award-winning work but the other pieces as well. Performances are red hot and the sound is excellent.

Dan Morgan
MusicWeb International, September 2007

What does Paul Moravec have in common with Charles Ives, Aaron Copland, Virgil Thomson, Samuel Barber, Giancarlo Menotti, Ned Rorem and John Corigliano? He now belongs to that select club of Pulitzer-Prize-winning composers, courtesy of his utterly delightful Tempest Fantasy.

To play this and a selection of his other works we have Trio Solisti, who premiered both Tempest Fantasy and Mood Swings and commissioned Scherzo. They perform regularly in the States and are resident at Adelphi College, New York. The clarinet virtuoso David Krakauer, who I first encountered on another American Classic…also combines teaching in the U.S. with performances around the world.

Manhattan-born Moravec’s Tempest Fantasy, which he describes in his notes as ’a musical meditation on characters, moods and lines from my favorite Shakespeare play’, is not clichéd faerie music but has a muscularity and thrust that may surprise you. For instance, in the first movement the sprite Ariel is characterised by animated pizzicato writing, the scurrying clarinet figures wittily evoking the antics of Prospero’s mischievous little spy.

Prospero, the second in this ‘flight of musical fancy’, is altogether more regal, with long instrumental lines and a firm, measured piano beneath. There is a hint of magic, too, in the stranger sonorities but by and large this is a thoroughly engaging and memorable portrait of Shakespeare’s famous sorcerer.

The third movement, Caliban, is much darker, exploiting the pungent lower registers of the clarinet. Moravec imbues this strange ‘mooncalf’ with a rare potency and power through music of great vigour and variety. Sweet Airs is a musical response to Caliban’s eloquent speech in Act III, scene ii—‘Sounds and sweet airs, that give delight and hurt not’. It is music full of poise and sophistication, quite at odds with our image of this unruly creature, this ‘freckled whelp’.

It is difficult to place Moravec’s musical style; suffice to say that it has a pleasing originality, notably in Fantasia. A bit of a potpourri, this, it brims with lovely energetic melodies. The playing and recording are exemplary. I’ve had cause to grumble about the unnaturally close balance on some Naxos discs but the engineers have got this one absolutely right. From the quieter, more reflective moments to the whirling finale of Fantasia the instruments have a natural perspective that greatly enhances one’s enjoyment of this music.

Moravec explains that Mood Swings is an attempt ‘audibly [to] present the workings of the central nervous system’. A curious conceit, perhaps, and I wondered how Moravec would sustain it for quarter of an hour. I needn’t have worried; the piece has a coherence—it is essentially a theme and variations—that helps to hold one’s interest from beginning to end; not to mention the gentle, more elegiac moments in between the stormier ones. I was particularly impressed by Jon Klibonoff’s sensitive piano playing, which helps to underline and sustain the changing moods so admirably.

The B.A.S.S. Variations, like earlier musical acronyms D.S.C.H. and B.A.C.H., are based on the German notation (in this case B flat-A-E flat-E flat). Composed at the Bass Garden Studios of the American Academy in Rome, the piece is dedicated to Sid and Mercedes Bass. It’s not a flamboyant work; indeed, at the outset it has a concentration, an inwardness, that is most seductive. Alexis Pia Gerlach’s secure, lyrical cello playing is worth commending, even in the more animated episodes. But what a hauntingly beautiful finale, a dying whisper almost.

How very different from the jazzy, improvisatory Scherzo, which Moravec describes as an ‘encore-type piece’. Klibonoff really lets his hair down and Maria Bachmann’s violin playing, full of vim and vigour, is just delicious.

I’m tempted to add this disc to my shortlist of the year’s best so far. Not only is the music captivating, it also has a consistent energy and focus that is very impressive. Couple this with a lovely, natural recording and playing of real stature and you have a very special disc indeed.

Peter Burwasser
Fanfare, August 2007

It is easy to understand why Paul Moravec would have been awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 2004 for the lead work on this CD. Tempest Fantasy is inspired by the Shakespearean play from which it takes its name, which puts him in a rich tradition indeed. Without a doubt, there is no other literary figure in history that so widely and profoundly influences the art of music. Each movement is a reflection on some aspect of the play, in the composer’s words, “points of departure for flights of purely musical fancy.” This is a beautifully crafted creation, amalgamating a range of stylistic influences, showing off a nearly prismatic sense for timbral color, and constructed with a sure sense for architectural cohesiveness. And yet, most of this music did not move me. Moravec’s manner here is clean, beautiful, and oddly out of touch with the deeper emotional nuances of his muse. He claims that he is not programmatic, but there is a sense, expressed in idiomatic gestures in the rhythmic and melodic elements, of an overtly dramatic sensibility, more so in the faster sections.

In the lovely “Sweet Airs” movement, we get a deeper sense of Moravec’s talents, with music of rhapsodic splendor. That impulse comes to fuller fruition in both Mood Swings and B. A. S. S. Variations (the title refers to the German notation for Bb, A, Eb, Eb, the base melody), where, freed of literary obligations of any kind, his imagination blossoms. All of this music is harmonically traditional, even proudly tonal, but Moravec has his own voice. At this point, I must mention that the performers—associates and dedicatees of the composer—are a strong factor in the success of this presentation. This is intensely focused and lyrically expressed playing, with obviously deep affection for the music. The disc ends with a whirling Scherzo, an encore piece written for this trio. In all, an honest and impressive portrait of a major American composer.

American Record Guide, August 2007

This is a reissue of a 2004 Arabesque release, for some reason not reviewed in these pages. Paul Moravec’s Tempest Fantasy (2002) won the 2004 Pulitzer Prize. It’s a set of five through-composed tone poems on Shakespeare’s Tempest for clarinet(s), violin, cello, and piano, described by its composer as “a musical meditation on characters, moods, situations, and lines of text from my favorite Shakespeare play”. Moravec writes in a vibrant and complex tonality, thoroughly appropriate to the text’s magical world. The three main characters (Ariel, Prospero, and Caliban) are given individual portraits, along with a poetic slow movement (’Sweet Airs’) and a wild Fantasia as finale. The piece is absorbing and virtuosic, and is put forth by this enthusiastic group with impressive commitment and startling command.

The remaining pieces were all written for the Trio Solisti (Maria Bachman, Alexis Pia Gerlach, Jon Klibonoff). Mood Swings (1999) is a continuous set of variations for piano trio, the “themes” presented in the brief introduction and expanded over the course of the work’s 15 minutes.

B.A.S.S. Variations is another variation set composed the same year, also for piano trio. The title is a musical anagram of the surname of Mercedes and Sid Bass of the American Academy in Rome, B-flat-A-E-flat-E-flat in German pitch nomenclature, which serves as a motive through the musical discourse. The program ends with a lively encore, a terrific Scherzo from 2002.

These pieces, along with Moravec’s previous Naxos release (M/J 2006), show this composer to be an important and original contributor to the New Tonality movement, and I’m glad he is being recognized by important instidons formerly stuck suffocating in the Olde Modernism. The world has sure changed. Moravec, not incidentally, is a graduate of Harvard and Columbia, which doesn’t hinder his being taken seriously.)

The Star-Ledger, May 2007

Paul Moravec will be artist-in- residence at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton for 2007–2008. A Manhattanite born in 1957, Moravec won the Pulitzer Prize in 2004 for his half-hour chamber work “Tempest Fantasy.” This disc, featuring the piece’s original performers, has been reissued at budget price in the ever-expanding “American Classics” series of Naxos.

Dubbed a “new tonalist” years ago, Moravec has a lyrical emphasis that’s apparent in “Tempest Fantasy,” a meditation on his favorite Shakespeare play ranging from the capricious (“Ariel”) to the songlike (“Sweet Airs”). The virtuoso performance by clarinetist David Krakauer and Trio Soloisti—violinist Maria Bachmann, cellist Alexis Pia Gerlach, pianist Jon Kli bonoff—surely thrilled the composer. The disc also features “Mood Swings” and two more works for piano trio. All the works are of a piece—smart, lithe and divertingly tuneful, if not especially moving.

Bachmann—a brilliant, charm ing talent—also has a new recital album, “The Red Violin” (Endeavor Classics). Along with pieces by Ravel, Gershwin, Copland and John Corigliano, she and Klibonoff play three brief Moravec pieces, including the seed-like “Ariel Fantasy.”

Michael Anthony
StarTribune, May 2007

Charm isn’t a quality we associate with new music, especially music that wins the Pulitzer Prize. Even so, the characteristic that strikes the listener on a first hearing of Paul Moravec’s “Tempest Fantasy,” which won the Pulitzer in 2004, is charm. A second hearing reveals even more: depth and assured craftsmanship.

Moravec, who teaches at Adelphi University and lives in New York City, wrote this piece—along with the others on this fine Naxos CD—with the Trio Soloisti and clarinetist David Krakauer in mind. They gave the premiere in New York in 2003.

The “Fantasy” is a meditation on the characters and moods of Shakespeare’s “The Tempest.” The first three of the work’s five movements evoke the nature and certain speeches of three of the play’s characters. “Ariel” is all airy, whirling figures, as if the instruments were doing cartwheels. “Prospero” is mournful and full of what one imagines to be regret, the violin weaving tender thoughts over ominous chords in the piano. The whimsical “Caliban,” on the other hand, lopes along with some amusing low growls in the clarinet, all suggesting a Shakespearean version of Forrest Gump. The ensuing “Sweet Airs” is aptly named, and the concluding “Fantasia” brings some of these earlier elements into fusion with brilliant virtuosity.

Moravec writes tonal music, in other words (music, again, with charm), but it doesn’t reek of nostalgia. It simply engages, and more so each time it’s heard. And the performances are superb. Besides Krakauer, the players include violinist Maria Bachman, cellist Alexis Pia Gerlach and pianist Jon Klibonoff.

The other pieces here are interesting, too, starting with “Mood Swings,” a piano trio from 1999 that evolves, as the title suggests, from a mysterious opening into a furious final section. “B.A.S.S. Variations” from that same year and the brief “Scherzo,” composed in 2002 and intended as an encore piece, complete the set.

Peter Bates
Audiophile Audition, April 2007

It’s an audience pleaser. It’s neo-tonalist. It’s got a Shakespearean hook. It won the Pulitzer Prize. All of these elements conspire to make Paul Moravec’s Tempest Fantasy a hit, a very palpable hit. There’s even a dollop of programmatic flavor stirred in. Three of the five sections involve impressions of central charters in The Tempest. Ariel is sprightly, accompanied by impish, high-register runs on the clarinet. Prospero is contemplative, even doleful, an adagio movement that, if you know the story, is about letting go of your powers. Its bittersweet atmosphere is balanced by Caliban, whose bass clarinet sequence suggests a lumbering beast knocking things over. Sweet Airs refers to “sounds and sweet airs,” Caliban’s line describing the bewitching sounds of the island. This lyrical movement has a well-constructed arc of intensity, reaching its peak a minute before its end, then drifting off as if to sleep. Fantasia is appropriately titled: It’s nicely witty, leaving the audience at a performance I attended in an upbeat mood and slightly out of breath.

For the most part, violinist Maria Bachmann is more than qualified to play this piece, but her final quaver ripples a bit more than it should. The other pieces on this disc are piano trios—engaging, but not as expansive in theme or character as Tempest Fantasy. Mood Swings, according to the composer, makes audible “the workings of the central nervous system.” Such ambition! Probably not long enough to accomplish all that, the work does feature quirky piano work by Jon Klibonoff. All three musicians play well together, as they explore the tricky caverns of the bi-polar personality. The third work, B.A.S.S. Variations, is a set of variations on two musicians’ names. It’s livelier and more whimsical than the other works, with gripping rhythmic interludes and one eerie decrescendo-decelerando. Scherzo, true to its name, is a short busy work designed specifically for encores. This disc is perfect to play while driving, as it will keep you awake fifty percent longer than a comparable nineteenth-century work.

Bob McQuiston
Classical Lost and Found, April 2007

On the heels of Australian composer Carl Vine’s orchestral suite based on Shakespeare’s The Tempest, which was recommended last month (see the newsletter of 15 March 2007), here’s a Tempest Fantasy for chamber ensemble. It’s by American composer Paul Moravec (b. 1957), who received his musical training at Harvard and Columbia. Written in 2002, it’s scored for clarinet, violin, cello and piano, and won the 2004 Pulitzer Prize for music.

On the surface Moravec’s music is quite approachable, because it’s based on triadic and tonal principles. But underneath there’s obviously a highly creative intellect at work that gives it real substance. The composer says in effect that Tempest…is a meditation on various characters and aspects of the play, which act as starting points for flights of musical fancy. In five movements, the first relates to Ariel and is appropriately Aoelian. The second, inspired by Prospero, is quite pensive. The third and fourth, associated with Caliban, are grotesque and soothingly reassuring respectively. The fifth is a madcap recap that boils over with musical ideas from the earlier ones. See if you detect a motif in the third and fifth that seems somewhat reminiscent of the “big tune” from the last movement of Robert Schumann’s Spring Symphony (No. 1).

The concluding three selections are for piano trio. Mood Swings is a theme and variations, which recreates in musical terms a variety of human psychological states. The Washington Post named it the best new classical composition of 1999, so don’t be surprised if you find yourself listening to it repeatedly. B.A.S.S. Variations (1999), another theme and variations, is dedicated to Mercedes and Sid Bass. The main motif is derived from the spelling of their last name, which in German musical notation equates to the notes B flat, A, E flat, E flat. Scherzo is an encore-like piece of that even out buzzes Rimsky-Korsakov’s busy bumblebee. All of this music was tailor-made for the artists involved, who deliver breathtaking performances. Engineered by the distinguished Adam Abeshouse, the recorded sound is stunning with a gorgeously liquid clarinet, totally convincing piano devoid of any breakup, and silky strings.

This is a must for all American music enthusiasts, particularly those who for one reason or another failed to get it when it first appeared on the now defunct Arabesque label back in 2004. When you hear it, you’ll realize what a great debt we owe Naxos for making it available again, and at a lower price to boot! By the way, if you enjoy this release, make sure you investigate a recent companion one (Naxos 8.559243) featuring the chamber music of another Harvard graduate, John Harbison (b. 1938).

David Denton
David's Review Corner, April 2007

Little known outside of the United States, Paul Moravec belongs to that ever increasing group of American composers building bridges with their audiences that have largely been destroyed by the advocates of the Second Viennese School. He was a prolific composer whose 2004 Pulitzer Prize for the Tempest Fantasy placed his name on a higher level of recognition. Scored for clarinet, violin, cello and piano, it was inspired by characters and scenes from Shakespeare’s The Tempest, and it is the feel rather than the detailed substance contained in each of the five movements. The writing at times is very demanding, but essentially lyrical in character, Caliban an extensive movement in combined virtuosity. Mood Swings is a single movement for Piano Trio whose mood is both dynamic and rhythmic, its textures frequently changing in the fast-slow-fast overall format. The Variations, largely written in the Bass Garden Studio of the American Academy in Rome during 1999, is almost in the esoteric world of Szymanowski, the gorgeous string sonorities of the opening later becoming jazzy. Fun for the audience and energy sapping for the players, the whirlwind Scherzo closes the disc. The playing of the Trio Solisti, who inspired much of the music, is remarkable in its clarity of articulation, and in the Tempest Fantasy they are joined by the brilliance of David Krakauer. The disc, originally issued on Arabesque three years ago is excellently engineered.

Naxos Records, a member of the Naxos Music Group