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Carson Cooman
Fanfare, November 2009

This collection of recent pieces shows Moravec doing what he does best: writing blisteringly creative chamber pieces, in which every measure seems both exhilarating and inevitable.

To read the complete review, please visit Fanfare online.

Robert R Riley, March 2009

This is lively, fleet music done with a sense of fun and joy. The Chamber Symphony possesses a cheerful busyness that reminds me of Bohuslav Martinu. However, Moravec does not quite have Martinu's talent for creating the sense of an impending musical collision amid the busyness. That does not keep me from enjoying this mercurial music, especially when it is as alertly performed as it is here by these chamber musicians.

Ronald E. Grames
Fanfare, March 2009

…this is exceedingly enjoyable music. Syncopated, lively, tightly constructed, with novel instrumentation and an individual voice, it is music that deserves as wide an audience as any of the current darlings of the neo-Romantic movement. It is not neo-Romantic, or eclectic, or minimalist, or any discernable school of composition. …Sophisticated, kinetic, delightfully complex, intriguingly layered, yet always transparent, this is music that invites re-listening.

The Bridgehampton Chamber Music Festival…commissioned the Chamber Symphony for the opening of their 2003 season. …The genius of the piece, and of its performance, is the way the percussive timbres of the piano, marimba, and vibraphone are woven into the more blended sound of the winds and strings to create such an incredibly rich sound. Rigorously and imaginatively structured and exuberantly played, it is intellectually satisfying and a great deal of fun to hear.

The other work written for this group is Cool Fire, a flute concerto in all but name, with a piano quintet as orchestra. I suppose it could work for full orchestra almost as well, but part of the attraction is hearing how well the composer uses his limited forces.

Between these two works is Autumn Song, a short song without words for flute and piano. It is beautifully tuneful—one thinks a bit of Debussy—and nostalgic, but with just enough piquancy to keep it from becoming sentimental. …the playing is very fine and the performance of both artists charming and sensitive. © 2009 Fanfare Read complete review

Walter Simmons
Fanfare, March 2009

…a lovely performance by Marya Martin and Jeewon Park, reveals an austere beauty of its own, independent of any linkage to the past. © 2009 Fanfare Read complete review

Kevin Sutton
MusicWeb International, November 2008

Paul Moravec is one of those rare composers these days who writes music that is not only original, but is also listenable, yea, even enjoyable. Ever conscious of the power of a good melody, Mr. Moravec combines a winsome way with a tune with a very careful and thought-out use of dissonance to create music that is not only instantly memorable, but worthy of repeated listening. It’s a fresh change of pace from what spills out of most copies of Finale and Sibelius these days. 

Moravec’s style is clearly American and yet it is somewhat difficult to pin down his influences. His melodies are not theatrical like Leonard Bernstein’s, nor are they colloquial like Aaron Copland’s, yet they are fresh. Further, Mr. Moravec, who has won the Pulitzer Prize for music, has managed to avoid the kind of episodic and disconnected formal style that ensures only a single performance of much new music. Rather, he says what he needs to say in just the right amount of time and stops. It is this compactness of expression and his careful attention to the sound and blend of instrumental timbres that makes his music so very appealing. 

The three works on this program were composed for the Brigehampton Chamber Music Festival, long a stalwart summer event in New England. The Chamber Symphony is scored for seven instruments. It opens with a virtuosic fast movement that features an energetic underpinning from the piano and percussion with lyrical swathes draped on by the winds and strings. The tender slow movement reminds me a bit of Poulenc with its spicy harmonic language the floats gently between tasty jazz chords and blissful major triads. The third movement, labeled “Quick” is just that, a sprightly romp through a musical playground with everyone running as fast as they can. The work closes with a substantial finale that begins slowly and peacefully and ends in another fun game of chase. 

The tender Autumn Song for flute and piano is reminiscent of Prokofiev to these ears with some sweeping gestures in the piano and a flute part that often soars above the thick piano texture to make itself known. Marya Martin and Jeewon Park give a warm and sensitive performance, just thoughtful enough to be reflective, but not so over-ripe as to be maudlin. 

Finally, Cool Fire rounds out the program. This three movement work scored for flute, piano and string quartet is more adventurous perhaps than the other two pieces, but nonetheless reflects Moravec’s penchant for lyricism and his ability to write energetic and intricate counterpoint in fast sections. 

All the performances here are of the first order, and it is evident that these players have spent some time with the music and have internalized it. There is a palpable sense of purpose to the playing; serious when called for and utterly fun when appropriate. Kudos to Naxos for making a goodly chunk of Mr. Moravec’s music available to us in recent months, but at only forty-five minutes, it would have been nice to have had one more piece on this otherwise fairly flawless recording. 

I was also a bit disappointed in the program notes which spent far more time flattering the good nature of the composer than they did in explaining the music to us. Those quibbles aside, this is wonderful music and well worth exploring by conservative and adventuresome listeners alike. 

Bob McQuiston
Classical Lost and Found, October 2008


Here's some more outstanding chamber music from one of America's most distinguished living composers, Paul Moravec (b. 1957). A graduate of Harvard and Columbia, he has been the recipient of several prestigious commissions, and won a Pulitzer in 2004. While his music is definitely contemporary in spirit and obviously the work of a highly creative intellect, there are triadic and tonal elements present that make it immediately appealing.

The Chamber Symphony (2003) was written for the twentieth anniversary season of the Bridgehampton Chamber Music Festival, who are our performers here, and is scored for flute, piano, clarinet, horn, violin, cello and marimba/vibraphone. It's in four movements that alternate between fast and slow. The first is a scampering, neoclassical offering in which the thematic seeds that form the basis of the work are introduced. There's an impressionistic haze that surrounds the following movement, while the third is an articulate, kinetic romp with Stravinskian overtones. The finale is dark and meditative to begin with, but suddenly turns assertively animated, ending the work on a note of confidence.

Autumn Song (2000) is a rhapsody for flute and piano that's as refreshing as one of those hazy Indian summer days. Here the flute spins out a gentle gossamer melody, while the piano shimmers beneath it like sunlight on water.

A chamber concerto for flute and piano quintet (2001) is next. In it the composer attempts to musically contrast the intellectual and emotional. With the oxymoronic title, Cool Fire, it's in three movements and opens with a flurry of notes, which one could imagine representing neurons firing during some complex thought process. The lovely slow central section is passionate with ardent passages for each of the instruments. But a blizzard of melodic thoughts returns in the whirlwind finale, where the technical demands on everyone are considerable. There's never a dull moment in this intriguing, hyperactive work.

All of the nine musicians represented here deliver stunning performances. Special mention should be made of flutist Marya Martin, who is also the founder and artistic director of the Bridgehampton Chamber Music Festival, and pianist Jeewon Park for their outstanding solo work in the last two works. You'll undoubtedly be hearing from them again!

Recorded at the American Academy of Arts and Letters in New York City, the sound is excellent with soundstages that are entirely appropriate for each of the differing ensembles required for these pieces. The instrumental timbre is quite natural across the entire frequency spectrum; however, those with systems favoring the high end may notice isolated bright spots on intense flute passages. Also there's an occasional hint of grain in the piano sound, but certainly not enough to deny this release an audiophile rating.

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