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James H. North
Fanfare, May 2020

Express Abstractionism lives up to its title: This vibrant, alive—almost feral—music is fast (read: exciting), expressive, and abstract. Its four movements were inspired by five artists: Alexander Calder, Gerhard Richter, Wassily Kandinsky and Lee Krasner (in movement III), and Piet Mondrian. Sean Shepherd (b. 1979) used their artistic techniques as bases for constructing his music. If Tsontakis is the meat of this gala banquet, Shepherd is its spice.

These four performances evince all of the BSO’s fabled elegance, couched in the warm, embrace of Symphony Hall’s acoustic. Enthusiastically recommended to all! © 2020 Fanfare Read complete review



Allen Gimbel
American Record Guide, March 2020

Tsontakis’s music is expressive in a somewhat old-fashioned sense. Sessions’s serialism is apparent in some of the melodic material. His name is mentioned in one of the sonnets. They are sometimes quite beautiful. English horn player Sheena is superb.

This release is valuable for familiarizing yourself with mostly unknown composers (Tsontakis is the best known). The orchestra sounds glorious, and the composers can consider themselves fortunate. Notes by the composers. © 2020 American Record Guide Read complete review on American Record Guide



Richard Whitehouse
Gramophone, March 2020

By no means synonymous with new music, Andris Nelsons has yet maintained the Boston Symphony’s illustrious track record for commissions since becoming its music director, as these premieres from 2016/17 demonstrate. Two of the works make ideal curtain-raisers—Erik Nathan’s the space of a door with its cumulative eliding between explosive tuttis and stealthy ensemble passages, and Timo Andres’s Everything Happens So Much, which is the nearest of these pieces to evoking those minimalist traits still prevalent in American music. © 2020 Gramophone Read complete review on Gramophone



Michael Schulman
The WholeNote, January 2020

The longest (24 minutes) and most substantial music on the disc, needing no visual support, is by the oldest and best-established of the composers, George Tsontakis (b.1951), visiting composer in 2008 at the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Music. His four-movement Sonnets—Tone Poems for English Horn and Orchestra, inspired by Shakespeare, is a lyrical, moody gem, its solo part beautifully played by the BSO’s Robert Sheena. © 2020 The WholeNote Read complete review




Remy Franck
Pizzicato, December 2019

This CD with Boston Symphony commissions opens with Eric Nathan’s The Space of a Door, a 12-minute piece with an atmospheric and gloomy beginning, followed by a hectic middle section. Then comes a cathedral-like sound, before the music ends reflectively again. Very well done, very well played and exciting!

…Everything Happens So Much by Timo Andres is a blessing. It is playful, original, with many good ideas, and brilliantly performed. Express Abstractionism, for which Sean Shepherd was inspired by the abstract expressionists, is also an attractive work, concluding the program. © 2019 Pizzicato Read complete review



David Denton
David's Review Corner, November 2019

The Boston Symphony have a long history of commissioning new music from composers of different nationalities, but primarily from their native North America. Here we have four young composers whose works were premiered in 2016 and 2017, three—Nathan, Anders and Shepherd—having progressed through the Boston Symphony’s Tanglewood Music Centre. All are writing in a musical language I describe as modern tonality, and offers a sound-scape acceptable to the ears of musically conservative audiences. The ideas behind the titles are explained in the accompanying booklet, Eric Nathan’s the space of a door, reflecting the impact as he walked into the Athenaeum close by Brown University. Colourfully scored it contrasts with the delicate hues of George Tsontakis’s Sonnets, the inspiration taken from words in Shakespeare’s sonnets, orchestral textures surrounding a solo English Horn (cor anglais). The aegis of Timo Andres’s Everything Happens so Much, completed three years ago, is rather more unique, for having produced thematic material, he then seeks to use it as it would have been used by composers of yesteryear. It would appear to be an exercise in growth from an initial seed heard on the piccolo, but that doesn’t materialise. And so we move to Sean Shepherd’s Express Abstractionism, a score that ‘pictures’ four artists. Shepherd, now turned forty, is adept at colourful orchestral scoring that leans heavily towards atonality. The recordings were probably made in concerts during 2016 and 2018, the sound quality being punchy, yet with abundant inner clarity. Much rehearsal time must have been required, the Boston Symphony, conducted by Andris Nelsons, sounding as if they perform the works regularly. A ‘must have’ disc for modernists. © 2019 David’s Review Corner



Records International, November 2019

These works, from 2016/2017 continue the orchestra’s long-standing tradition of promoting new music. All are thoroughly approachable and based in tonality, diverse in style, and sophisticated and serious in expression. Nathan’s piece is a powerful and exhilarating curtain raiser, a kind of concert overture in interconnected scenes, beginning with an imposing opening partially borrowed from Bartók. … Shepherd responds to four important abstract artists in his four movement suite, with calm, shifting shapes of Calder mobiles juxtaposed with the flaring flamboyance of Gerhard Richter, the repeating but not repeating structures of Krasner and Kandinsky, and the calm consonant forms of Mondrian. © 2019 Records International Read complete review





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