Classical Music Home

Welcome to Naxos Records

Keyword Search
 Classical Music Home > Naxos Album Reviews

Album Reviews

See latest reviews of other albums...

Rob Haskins
American Record Guide, November 2017

Fine performances by excellent, committed players…

Harrison was an eclectic at heart and quite ahead of his time in grasping and integrating the sounds of various world-music traditions into his work. The Duo, in particular, recalls the static textures and undulating rhythms of gamelan. © 2017 American Record Guide Read complete review on American Record Guide

Scherzo, October 2017

The result of this recording is simply magnificent. Tim Fain and Michael Boriskin are soloists of great class, and Angel Gil-Ordóñez does an extraordinary job at the helm of his PostClassical Ensemble of Washington. © 2017 Scherzo

David DeBoor Canfield
Fanfare, September 2017

…I give this CD a warm recommendation for its splendid music and performances thereof. © 2017 Fanfare Read complete review

Elizabeth Kerr
New Zealand Listener, August 2017

Composer Lou Harrison fits into that splendidly American artistic tradition of eccentric trailblazers; it includes his collaborator John Cage, his teacher Henry Cowell and pioneers Harry Partch and Charles Ives, outsider who discovers remarkably original ways of making music. © 2017 Listener (New Zealand)

Grego Applegate Edwards
Gapplegate Classical-Modern Music Review, August 2017

We hear this all very clearly on a well-realized three-work anthology. Violinist Tim Fain, pianist Michael Boriskin and the PostClassic Ensemble under Angel Gil-Ordoñez bring to us a well finessed reading of Violin Concerto, Grand Duo and Double Music (with John Cage).

Fain has the right combination of rhapsodic projection and modern sonar facticity. The same might be said in pianistic terms for Michael Boriskin. The PostClassical Ensemble handles the various percussive and chamber requirements of the composer with a bit of dash and aplomb.

…[this] Naxos release brings to us seminal Harrison played with ideal sympathy, creative fervor alternating with expressive quietude. © 2017 Gapplegate Classical-Modern Music Review Read complete review

Paul E. Robinson
Musical Toronto, June 2017

Violinist Tim Fain is a very capable exponent of both the Grand Duo and the Violin Concerto. © 2017 Musical Toronto Read complete review

David Hurwitz, June 2017

All of this music has been recorded before successfully, but this particular compilation works very well as a unified program, while the performances are second to none. Harrison’s Violin Concerto (really Concerto for Violin and Percussion) is a major masterpiece. Harmonically inspired by Berg, in that the violin line is what you might call “atonal-lyrical,” the opposition of a single solo cantabile instrument against the mass of unpitched percussion creates a distinctive expressive contrast unique in the instrumental literature. The mood is neither Asian nor Western avant-garde, but somehow a world unto itself, and utterly compelling. © 2017 Read complete review

Chris Morgan
Scene Magazine, June 2017

This year marks the 100th anniversary of Harrison’s birth, and to commemorate the occasion, Naxos has released this sublime recording which features the evocative playing of violinist Tim Fain, pianist Michael Boriskin, and the instrumentalists of the PostClassical Ensemble, under the direction of conductor Angel Gil-Ordóñez. Fain’s lyrical performance, coupled with Boriskin’s lively accompaniment during the half-hour Grand Duo is an inspired musical excursion, while the percussive mashup Double Music—co-composed with John Cage—is a shambling masterpiece. A revelation. © 2017 Scene Magazine Read complete review

Michael Schulman
The WholeNote, May 2017

This splendid CD contains two masterworks by Lou Harrison.

Throughout much of the 20-minute concerto [Concerto for Violin and Percussion], Tim Fain has to play in the violin’s upper register; he does so, brilliantly.

The five-movement, Indonesian-influenced Grand Duo for violin and piano (1988) lasts 35 minutes. New to me, I found every minute enthralling. A great piece!

Double Music (1941), for which Harrison and Cage each independently wrote the music for two of the four players, is a long-standing percussion staple. Gil-Ordóñez’s meditative seven-minute interpretation takes over a minute longer than my swinging, Cage-conducted LP version. Different, but effective.

Heartily recommended! © 2017 The WholeNote Read complete review

Remy Franck
Pizzicato, May 2017

Three intriguingly special works, extremely well served by the performers. The recording is altogether first class and one superb homage to Lou Harrison for his 100th birthday. © 2017 Pizzicato

Dean Frey
Music for Several Instruments, May 2017

Harrison’s own genius is pretty clear, nurtured by his mentor Henry Cowell, his teacher at UCLA Arnold Schoenberg, and later in New York, that great well-spring of American modernism Charles Ives. The Concerto for Violin and Percussion is a great introduction to Harrison’s music, with its kitchen-sink “junk” percussion and surprisingly full-bodied emotion from the solo violin. Harrison acknowledged the influence of Alban Berg’s Violin Concerto, about which he said “It really walloped me.” The soloist Tim Fain plays with the required virtuosity as well as the sensitivity and musicality to scale the heights and plumb the depths of this remarkable work, one of the great American concertos, matched in Harrison’s works by his Piano Concerto. Angel Gil-Ordoñez’s PostClassical Ensemble provide robust support, with an equal virtuosity on the percussion side. Fain is joined by pianist Michael Boriskin in Harrison’s Grand Duo, which treats the piano very much in a percussive role, though considering how important percussion is to Harrison it’s more a question of opening up new options for the pianist rather than limiting them. © 2017 Music for Several Instruments Read complete review

Erica Jeal
The Guardian, May 2017

Lou Harrison had a pioneer’s imagination, not least regarding what might be walloped in the name of music—his Violin Concerto calls for flowerpots, plumber’s pipes and clock coils in the percussion. What’s more striking in this performance by Tim Fain, the PostClassical Ensemble and conductor Angel Gil-Ordóñez is the brilliance of his writing for violin, a collision between itchy dance rhythms and soaring lyricism. …a very enjoyable disc. © 2017 The Guardian Read complete review, May 2017

Tim Fain plays the work skillfully, and Angel Gil-Ordóñez leads it with his usual flair and sure understanding of music that does not necessarily lend itself to ready comprehension. …Gil-Ordóñez brings both knowledge and a sure hand in sound shaping to the performance. © 2017 Read complete review

Jason Victor Serinus
Stereophile, April 2017

Using a near-insane combination of rummaged “instruments,” including bells, brake drums, sistra, gongs, tam-tams, and thunder sheet, Double Music begins with a barely audible drone before breaking into a virtual rainbow of colors. Who knows what’s responsible for what sounds, but the clanging and gongs are not only sometimes hilarious, but also make for a perfect system test-track. This relatively short, joy-filled cacophony has the last laugh as it fades out at the end.

Harrison wrote the first two movements of Concerto for Violin and Percussion in 1940, and revised them when he created the final movement in 1959. Astoundingly modern, it combines a wild battery of percussion with extremely challenging writing for the violin.

Amidst its unbounded inventiveness and jollities, Grand Duo also reflects the gravity with which Harrison viewed the world. A proponent of boundary-less societies, he condemned war and violence, and promoted Esperanto as a universal language. © 2017 Stereophile Read complete review

David Denton
David's Review Corner, April 2017

Lou Harrison remains an enigmatic North American composer of the 20th century, the input of his mentor Arnold Schoenberg rather muted by later events in his life. Basically he was a musical explorer who discovered for himself so many very differing influences, though when you add his fascination with percussion instruments and the impact that Indonesian gamelan brought to his music, you already have an exotic recipe. Throw in for good measure Schoenberg’s atonality, and you can guess the outcome when he composed the Violin Concerto in 1940. Don’t expect anything that you have heard before, but do expect some fascinating sound pictures in the three short movements, the solo violin giving the impression of improvisation as it weaves a melodic line of Far Eastern origin, the percussion an amalgam of traditional and funky purpose-made instruments. The Grand Duo, composed in 1988, is in a very different world, the keyboard playing the role of gamelan, the opening Prelude both quiet and withdrawn, to contrast with the following Stampede, which is a picture the word invokes. In the following A Round, the music returns to the mood of the opening movement, with a happy Polka to conclude, or should it have been described as a Hoedown?  Finally, as a spin-off from their San-Francisco percussion concerts, John Cage and Harrison co-composed Double Music for tuned percussion. To my innocent ears, the performances from hugely regarded musicians are certainly idiomatic, the violinist, Tim Fain, as a persuasive advocate of the Concerto and Grand Duo. Recordings are derived from 2016 sessions. © 2017 David’s Review Corner

Records International, April 2017

This recording documents Harrison’s pioneering roles as a composer for percussion and as an integrator of Western and Indonesian idioms. The concerto (1940/59), both intimate and vigorous, demonstrates his experimental enthusiasm in the use of non-pitched percussion. The Grand Duo of 1988 is a remarkable example of gamelan-infused chamber music while Double Music, co-composed in 1941 with Harrison’s friend Cage, is a well-known product of their celebrated San Francisco percussion concerts. © 2017 Records International

Naxos Records, a member of the Naxos Music Group