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Donald Feldman
American Record Guide, July 2011

The pieces on the recording of music by James Lentini are all very colorful and well written; the performances are for the most part excellent.

To read the complete review, please visit American Record Guide online.

Stephen Estep
American Record Guide, November 2010

East Coast Groove, for tuba and piano, is a worthwhile new five-minutes of music; it knows how long to stay and still keep its welcome…

To read complete review, please visit American Record Guide online.

Laurence Vittes
Gramophone, October 2010

Expressive and atmospheric music with a hint of populism

James Lentini is a typical American classical music success story. He is both dean and professor of music at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio (the 10th oldest public university in the United States), and the music department boasts an outstanding faculty and library.

James Lentini’s contribution as a composer, as heard on this recording of music written for friends and performed by colleagues, is music that expresses deep human feelings. Like the opening bars of his four-movement Orchestra Hall Suite in which bassoonist Paul Ganson evokes the romantic moonlit world of Weber overtures, the sober mood prevails, although there is always ample energy to keep the audience awake, as a hint of Midwestern populism surges into the third movement and beyond.

There is an ample variety of excellent sounds on the remainder of the programme. El signo del angel enlarges the repertoire of high-stratosphere effects a viola and a harp together can create. The pièce de résistance of the disc may be Scenes from Sedona, perhaps the best piece for viola and cello since Beethoven’s “Eyeglasses” Duet. It is a set of unconventional riffs on five of the valley’s spiritual landmarks, about the disconnectedness of human life which the famous red rocks are known to cure. It is performed by the dedicatees, Celliola, with a sort of casual, film noir intensity.

The sound is uniformly clear and strong, able to reproduce everything from a tuba player’s fantasy to a bassoon in heat. The composer’s booklet-notes are serious indeed.

WRUV Reviews, September 2010

Interesting and creative works for a variety of instrumental combinations (tuba and piano, harp and viola, viola and violoncello amongst others). Lentini played  guitar in rock bands as a teenager, then moved on to classical guitar and composition. Liner notes provide works’ inspirations.

Steve Hicken, August 2010

James Lentini...deftly combines unusual groups of instruments and makes the listener feel that there should be an entire repertoire for them. This is most immediately true (for me) in Orchestra Hall Suite, for bassoon, violin, viola, and cello. After hearing this expressive, well-made piece, one wonders why the “bassoon quartet” is not a staple of chamber music series.

Lentini, who is Dean of the School of Fine Arts at Miami University (Ohio), has a thorough understanding of instruments, how they work and how they work together. The unlikely duo of viola and harp sounds great in El Signo del Angel (The Sign of the Angel). East Coast Groove, for tuba and piano, sings and swings.

 The performers, many of whom are Lentini’s colleagues at Miami, are outstanding executants of this fine music. Naxos, with this outstanding release, continues to be one of our most important record companies.

David Denton
David's Review Corner, August 2010

Starting out his working life as guitarist in rock bands, James Lentini returned to college to study classical guitar and composition, becoming a very individual musical voice. Born in Detroit, Michigan, in 1958, commissions have never been in short supply from the worlds most prestigious soloists and orchestras. He has stayed well away from the current American trend towards traditional melodic invention, and it will interest those ears seeking out a new experience. Tonality here rubs shoulders with atonality,Lentini without any preconceived musical dogma, and I would look forward to hearing his orchestrations. The disc covers chamber music through the years 1987 to 2004 and shows a composer now happy with himself, a discernable style running throughout. The earliest, from 1987, is the Five Pieces for Cello and Piano, a work that shows his fascination with rhythms, the accompaniment, here and elsewhere, finding the two voices going in opposing directions. Montage is a string trio in three short movements, and came five years later, its whole being inhabiting the same sound world  Orchestra Hall Suite for bassoon and string trio, comes from 1994, and makes the ideal introduction into Lentini’s world, though my favourite is El Signo del Angel, scored for harp and viola with lovely washes of sound. Scenes from Sedona are five musical pictures of the Red Rock Country in Arizona, scored for violin and cello, and tuba players will no doubt be pleased to discover the short East Coast Groove. We would take the recordings produced by Lentini as benchmark, his many excellent players so totally convincing. A valuable addition to Naxos’s ‘American Classics’ series in very good sound.

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