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Robert R. Reilly
Crisis Magazine, May 2012

Music like this is a nail in the heart of the avant-garde. The Concerto is followed up by an exquisite Pavane for String Orchestra, called Aina’s Song, and a Concerto for Saxophone and Orchestra. This CD…is another winner in Naxos’ “American Classics” series, and is done to perfection by the St. Petersburg State Symphony Orchestra, under Vladimir Lande, with the excellent violinist Charles Weatherbee. © 2012 Crisis Magazine

MusicWeb International, January 2012

James Aikman’s works “embrace a colorful tapestry of stylistic influences, including jazz and pop”…the results are fat-free, tasty musical fare that will appeal to most palates. © 2012 MusicWeb International Read complete review

Jerry Dubins
Fanfare, January 2012

Violin Concerto…a work of soaring lyricism, romantic beauty, and emotional urgency. Unquestionably, this is a major addition to the 20th-century violin concerto repertoire, and soloist Charles Weatherbee is simply fantastic.

Aikman’s Ania’s Song…begins slowly and softly, builds to a big climax, and then subsides…there’s almost a sense of transcendent peace and joy… What emotionally stirring and spiritually uplifting music this is!

In a score like Aikman’s alto saxophone concerto…Sullivan produces a smooth, evenly balanced tone and navigates the technical obstacles of the score with ease and poise.

This is a wonderful release of enjoyable new works that comes with a strong “buy” recommendation. © 2012 Fanfare Read complete review on Fanfare

Susan Isaacs Nisbett, December 2011

His latest CD, for Naxos, is attracting brilliant reviews in the likes of “Fanfare” and “Gramophone,” which recently declared, “This could easily be a best-seller in the USA if there were some mechanism to make innovative American composers the talk of the town. © 2011 Read complete review

Laurence Vittes
Gramophone, December 2011

The soloists…are spectacular…Ania’s Song…makes an ideal interlude between two wonderful concertos.

To read the complete review, please visit Gramophone online., November 2011

The three Aikman works here draw on multiple stylistic influences, with distinct jazz and pop-music elements and very different levels of expressiveness. The Violin Concerto is the most intricate of the pieces, retaining a strong flavor of improvisation even when thoroughly written-out…At the other emotional and structural end of things is the dissonant and rather harsh Saxophone Concerto, whose clarity of orchestration strongly contrasts with its generally acerbic tone and a sound recalling that of Alban Berg. …Ania’s Song…functions…as a respite for the ear…the orchestra here is Russian and the recording was made in St. Petersburg, yet nothing sounds exotic or as if it is played by musicians uncomfortable with Aikman’s American style. Read complete review

Jay Harvey
The Indianapolis Star, October 2011

“Quasi una Fantasia,” is a brilliant piece of work—quite discursive but somehow coherent and a virtuoso exercise in orchestration. As for the finale, it has aspects of the gratuitous display of churning energy often found in the music of one of Aikman’s teachers, Donald Erb.  I enjoyed the occasional abrupt pauses, as if Aikman was conscious of needing to check the perpetual-motion tendency of this movement.

The Saxophone Concerto seems to be written to integrate the solo voice more with the orchestra, but perhaps a  judicious recording balance was achieved here and that may deserve the credit.  Taimur Sullivan’s unruffled agility and pristine tone on the alto saxophone are admirable throughout. Read complete review

David Denton
David's Review Corner, September 2011

‘I’ve written this music as a contribution to the musical repertoire’, comments James Aikman in the disc’s programme notes. Born in the States in 1959, and with Donald Erb, William Bolcom and Louis Andriessen featuring among his mentors, his subsequent career has been divided between composition and teaching on the faculty of the University of Michigan. On first acquaintance he has developed a highly personal style, the Baroque era forming the underlying influence to which he has added a new harmonic language taking us where we least expect to travel. Dating from 2009, the Violin Concerto’s opening statement possesses the transparency we find in the music of Alban Berg, before moving to a luxuriant quality in the central Quasi una Fantasia that could well have come from Samuel Barber. The finale is a modern slant on a Toccata with a very proactive role for the soloist. Though the Alto Saxophone Concerto, completed the following year, has that freedom of expression of the great jazz saxophonists, it is expressed in atonal influences of the Second Viennese School, two fast outer movements surrounding a mood of contemplation where the soloist is found doodling around an orchestral accompaniment often erupting in angry outbursts. The disc is completed with an arrangement for string orchestra of a score originally for string quartet, Ania’s Song, a piece that could well have formed the beautiful backdrop for a Hollywood film romance scene. Two outstanding North America’s musicians, Charles Wetherbee and Taimur Sullivan, are the dedicated soloists in their respective concertos, and share the stage with one of St. Petersburg’s more recently created orchestras directed by their American principal guest conductor, Vladimir Lande.

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